Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thai Election Affects Sweden?

In Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra will be the winner of the general election.

With most votes counted, outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has conceded victory to his rival, opposition leader Yingluck Shinawatra.

Ms Yingluck, who will become Thailand's first female prime minister, said there was "a lot of hard work ahead".

She is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a coup in 2006.

With 92% of votes counted, Ms Yingluck's Pheu Thai party had won 260 seats, giving it a majority in the 500-seat parliament.

What will happen now?

Most probably the military leaders are very disappointed. The election results clearly shows that the people of Thailand did not approve with the coup in 2006. The red-shirts have protested every year and now they will be in power. My guess is that Thaksin will be giving a lot of "advices" to his sister, even though he will wait a while before returning to Thailand. He will not formally be in power, but he will have a lot to say about the future politics of Thailand.

The big question however is if the military will accept the will of the people? A new coup could lead to civil war. many investors fear the worst and the Thai economy has dropped.

Inflation is nudging higher (to 4.2% in May), and both leading parties have promised a rack of give-aways, from higher wages to credit cards.

The Bank of Thailand said foreign investors had withdrawn 57bn baht ($1.85bn; £1.15bn) from the Thai debt market last month and 17bn baht from the stock market. The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) shed 74bn baht of its value in May.

A new coup in Thailand will affect Sweden in many ways.

- Thailand is the biggest vacation spot in the world for Swedes. Many Swedes also choose Thailand to live in during the cold Swedish winters when they retire at age 65. A coup could lead to a need of transporting a lot of Swedes back to home. Sweden remembers the challenge of transporting people from Thailand after the Tsunami in 2004. In 2004 Sweden had to rely on civilian airline companies. Today Sweden has access to three C-17 through the NATO HAW - Heavy Airlift Wing in Papa, Hungary.

- Swedish companies have invested a lot in the Thai tourism, hotels, airline companies etc. If there would be a new coup it will be very costly for these companies. This could affect the economy in Sweden and also the unemployment figures in the tourism sector. Maybe the tourists would stay in Sweden instead and spend their money. But since Thailand is mostly visited during the Swedish winter they will probably go to another warm country.

- Sweden has sold Gripen fighters to RTAF, the Royal Thai Air Force. 6+6 Gripen aircraft + 2 Saab 340 AEW and 1 Saab 340 transport aircraft together with upgrades of the Thai Command & Control networks are in the contract. A Swedish support unit are currently located at Wing 7 at the town of Surat Thani in southern Thailand. If there is a coup will the Swedish personnel be able to stay? How will Sweden support the Thai Air Force with spares and maintenance of the aircraft? Will there be any further contracts for more aircraft? The contract was signed in 2007, i.e. after the 2006 coup. Therefore a new government with ties to Thaksin could very well change the future for the Thai Air Force. The new government has promised a lot of economical support to the population. This money need to be raised somewhere.

Since Thailand is very depending on the tourism I believe that everyone will be very careful not to do anything that will affect the tourism. But who controls the red- and the yellow-shirts?

I hope that the Swedish foreign ministry is closely looking into the development in Thailand. Since there are a lot of Swedish interests in Thailand, Sweden must be prepared to act if a new coupe would take place.

But on the other hand, as BBC already has noted:

It is precisely Thailand's record of mishaps - in its 78 years of democracy it has survived 18 attempted or actual military coups and new constitutions - that gives the long-stayers a kind of confidence.

SvD1, SvD2, SvD3, DN

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