Thailand protests and the economy

Here’s a story in today’s WSJ: “Thai Protests Build on Economic Crisis

BANGKOK — Tens of thousands of antigovernment protesters sang and danced through the weekend outside Thailand’s main government complex, cheering on ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and offering the nation’s new leaders — and others in Asia — a jarring reminder of the political risks accompanying the region’s sharp economic decline.

Local businesswoman Darunee Kritboonyalai, a founding shareholder of a Thai iced-tea brand and an active supporter of Mr. Thaksin, said the protests against Thailand’s government could grow as the economy worsens. “We’re just part of a global situation, true. But this government doesn’t know how to handle it properly,” she said.

The protesters are mainly seeking to restore Mr. Thaksin — a multimillionaire businessman who was removed from office in a military coup nearly three years ago — to power. They object to the way Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power and are disenchanted with how he is handling the country’s economic downturn, and so are hoping to fuel wider discontent.

Many of the 30,000-strong crowd mocked the government’s latest stimulus efforts as, at best, an imitation of policies Mr. Thaksin championed before he was ousted in 2006. Some protesters handed 2,000 baht ($56) cash handouts from the government to rally organizers instead of spending them in Bangkok’s stores, as the government intended. One elderly woman, Ananya Mhanpadungkit, climbed onto a makeshift stage to say she couldn’t accept money from what she described as an “illegitimate” government. Protest leaders said they would continue their nighttime rallies indefinitely.

Thailand’s lingering conflict between Mr. Thaksin’s populist supporters and its more conservative, military-backed government shows how the world’s economic slump is complicating a series of political battles across Southeast Asia. The region is especially dependent on trade, providing electronic components, raw materials and skilled labor for the global supply chain, and several countries are feeling the strain.

There’s also insight into how economic woes in Malaysia and the Philippines are affecting politics there.

By Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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