Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

Thailand’s elemental political conflict

Author: Chris Baker, Kyoto University

Last year, fire; this year, water.

The largest demonstrations in Thailand’s political history ended with over 90 deaths in April–May 2010, but 18 months later, with the country’s biggest floods in half a century, some believed that togetherness in suffering would revive a mythical ‘national unity’. Read more…

Fiscal cost and Thailand’s redistribution policies

Author: Somchai Jitsuchon, TDRI

That Pheu Thai (PT) Party won Thailand’s general election was hardly a surprise, even to its principal political opponent, the Democrat Party.

What was surprising was the overwhelming majority it won. Read more…

The Thai–Australia FTA: discriminatory effects of rules of origin

Authors: Prema-chandra Athukorala, ANU; and Archanun Kohpaiboon, Thammasat University

The proliferation of FTAs over the past two decades has sparked a debate in Australian and international policy forums about their implications for the operation of the global trading system and ways of mitigating likely discriminatory effects on both partners and non-signatory countries.

An examination of the impact of the Australia–Thailand free trade agreement (TAFTA) of January 2005 on trade between the two countries provides valuable input into this debate. Read more…

Impunity and the neglect of human rights in Thailand

Author: Tyrell Haberkorn, ANU

Coups are not uncommon in Thai politics — September 2006 saw the tenth successful coup since the country’s transformation from absolute to constitutional monarchy in 1932 — but the aftermath of Thaksin Shinawatra’s deposition has been exceptionally bitter and violent.

Many observers hoped the newly elected Yingluck Shinawatra government would begin to consolidate the rule of law and respect for human rights in Thailand. Read more…

Rethinking the ‘China model’

Author: Shaun Breslin, University of Warwick and RIIA

The idea that there is a coherent and distinct ‘Chinese model’ of political economy has gained attention in recent years — especially as financial crisis elsewhere has undermined confidence in the (neo)liberal models often associated with Western interests and objectives.

To be sure, there are many in China and elsewhere who argue the crisis has actually highlighted key defects in China’s development model.

Read more…

Bearing the consequences of population policy in Thailand

Author: Gavin Jones, ANU

Thailand went through its fertility transition more quickly than almost any other country, with the average number of children born to the average woman declining from about six to two in little more than two decades, between about 1970 and 1990.

Fertility rates have since gone still lower, now standing at around 30 per cent below replacement level (the level that would lead to long-run population stability). This does not mean that Thailand’s population has stopped increasing. Read more…

Asia’s landlocked spaces

Author: Evan A. Feigenbaum, CFR

Politicians in landlocked countries aim to foster balance among the larger countries on whom their economies depend for transit.

But with so many obstacles to continental trade and transit in Central Asia, is the effort worth the exertion? Read more…

Death of Kim Jong-il: the rise of the Party

Author: Ruediger Frank, University of Vienna

Kim Jong-il is no more. The state news agency KCNA reported that he died on his train on Saturday 17 December 2011. This is the official version (now doubted internationally) that observers of North Korea have actually seen under preparation for quite a while, including in works of art that were discussed here.

Read more…

Problems with human capital in Malaysia

Author: Shankaran Nambiar, MIU, Malaysia

The present and future quality of Malaysia’s human capital is of considerable concern for the country’s policy makers.

Human capital is not improving as it should, and it threatens to constrain Malaysia’s growth objectives. Read more…

After Kim Jong-il: will there be change or continuity in North Korean economic policy?

Author: Bradley O. Babson

At the moment of his accession to power, Kim Jong-il inherited the devastating impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the subsequent trade shock to North Korea’s economic output, the onset of the worst famine in modern history, and a humanitarian crisis that required a direct appeal to the outside world for help.

By the late 1990’s, he was forced to accept the realities of dependence on international aid, the rise of farmers markets as a grassroots response to the famine, and the introduction of capitalist notions such as ‘profits’ in the Constitution itself. Read more…

Thailand’s Lèse-majesté laws: a potent weapon

Author: Pavin Chachavalpongpun, ISAS

The increasing frequency of lèse-majesté cases over the past few years suggests that Thailand’s claim to be the ‘land of the free’ no longer rings quite true.

There are many reasons behind the law’s application. Propping up a weakened monarchical institution and disguising the uncertainty of the royal succession is one rationale. Attempts to control society, conserve elitist privileges, prolong the military’s role in politics, obstruct democratisation and cope with the technological revolution in cyberspace also play a significant role. Read more…

China lifts Africa’s development prospects

Author: Peter Drysdale, Editor, East Asia Forum

The dramatic increase in recent years of trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) in sub-Saharan Africa by firms from Asia — notably China and India — has become an emotionally charged and controversial issue.

For China, as Luke Hurst has written, Africa would seem an excellent complement to its resource- and market-seeking global agenda. Read more…

Chinese development finance in Africa

Author: Deborah Brautigam, American University

Chinese development finance in Africa is unusual in that much of the financial flows from China do not constitute official development aid (ODA). 

Instead, much of it comes in the form of export credits and strategic lines of credit to Chinese-related companies, among other mechanisms. Read more…

Beating back India’s retail Luddites

Author: Rajiv Kumar, FICCI

The Luddites have won for the moment, with their recent protests following the Indian government’s decision to allow FDI in the retail sector.

A mere 10 million owners of traditional and self-organised retail and wholesale trade have held a country of 1.2 billion people to ransom and thwarted progress. Read more…

Understanding China’s South and Northeast Asia policies

Author: Vikas Kumar, Azim Premji University

China’s aggressive posturing in recent boundary disputes is causing widespread concern in the Asia Pacific.

But sensing growing opposition, China is renewing cooperation with its neighbours to calm tensions. Read more…