Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Woes
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th April, 2009
Protesting outside summits is the flavour of the month. Barely have the G20 demonstrators been pushed out of the City of London than police in the Thai resort of Pattaya are trying to keep red-shirted supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra away from the hotel where leaders from the 10 South East Asian countries are due to gather for an ASEAN summit. In this case, though, the protest and associated anger are essentially domestic, as the demonstrators are calling for the current PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, to resign. The protest leader, Arismun Pongreungrong, said the Redshirts do not intend to damage anything, but ‘we have to show the world that this government is not democratic.’
It would be a shame if the protests did disrupt the summit, as ASEAN needs a meeting to discuss the region’s approach to the current global economic and financial crisis. Mr Abhisit and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, were both at the G20 summit in London, but the Pattaya meeting should be more than a report-back from that. As I wrote in an article for the next issue of Diplomat magazine, the situation of the different ASEAN member states varies enomously. Indonesia, for example, still expects to enjoy around four per cent growth this year, whereas Singapore — which is heavily dependent on trade — has seen a sharp contraction. It will be interesting to see if ASEAN can come up with a more united front than the EU has managed to do.
In the meantime, Abhisit has to figure out how to deal with the wave of pro-Thaksin protests that has been sweeping the country for months, as well as the polarisation in Thailand between the Redshirts and the yellow-shirted campaigners of the conservative People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is close to some members of Abhisit’s government yet also keeping a close eye on the Prime Minister’s performance.