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

Lifting the veil on Thailand’s COVID-19 success story

A promoter wears a face shield during the 41st Bangkok International Motor Show, after the Thai government eased measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Bangkok, Thailand, 15 July, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Silva).

Author: Wannaphong Durongkaveroj, ANU

Thailand has been internationally praised for avoiding a COVID-19 disaster. Despite recording the first case of the virus outside of China on 13 January 2020, Thailand managed to avoid its first death until almost seven weeks later. Its peak of new daily COVID-19 cases was 188 in late March — a low figure compared to many Western countries.

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A collective ASEAN response to COVID-19

An official wearing a face mask looks on as Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attends a special video conference with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hanoi 14 April 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Manan Vatsyayana).

Author: Hsien-Li Tan, NUS

When COVID-19 cases first appeared in the ASEAN region early in 2020, there were fears that public health systems would be overwhelmed. Responses around the region have varied. After decisive action — and missteps — in the initial months, Vietnam, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore are now cautiously relaxing restrictions while working to avert a second wave. Indonesia and the Philippines continue to see significantly higher infection and death rates, leading to strong criticism against the Jokowi and Duterte administrations.

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Is ASEAN’s COVID-19 response leaving migrant workers behind?

Firefighters spray disinfectant on a street during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 31 March, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Teng).

Author: M Niaz Asadullah, University of Malaya

Many ASEAN nations saw a sharp decline in the number of coronavirus fatalities after more than a month in lockdown. New infections in Thailand dropped to single-digit figures and Vietnam has already reopened its economy. The Philippines and Malaysia have conditionally permitted most sectors to resume business.

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Thai domestic politics threatens to derail its diplomacy

Soldiers march during the annual Military Parade to celebrate the Coronation of King Rama X at the Royal Thai Army Cavalry Center in Saraburi province, Thailand 18 January, 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Tun).

Author: Greg Raymond, ANU

Thailand has been a treaty ally of the United States since 1954, but its political direction since 2006 — amid warming strategic ties with Beijing — is placing serious pressure on the alliance.

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The COVID-19 pandemic pulls at the seams of Southeast Asia

A worker cleans a plastic barrier after customers had lunch at the Penguin Eat Shabu hotpot restaurant that reopened after the easing of restrictions with the implementation of a plastic barrier and social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bangkok, Thailand, 8 May, 2020 (Photo:Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Hunter Marston, ANU

The worst of the COVID-19 pandemic may be yet to come for many Southeast Asian countries, though some, such as Vietnam, have seen relative success in containing the virus. Read more…

Managing supply chain risk in a post-COVID-19 world

Workers of Chinese e-commerce retailer Suning Group sort out parcels at a distribution center of Suning in Nanjing city, east China's Jiangsu province, 13 November 2018.

Author: Stephen Olson, Hinrich Foundation

The coronavirus pandemic has called into question several assumptions which have underpinned global trade for decades. By the time the dust settles, the world’s approach to trade could look quite different. Read more…

Thailand 4.0 and its challenges

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (C) and Wang Xiaotao (C-L), a representative of the Chinese Government take part during the groundbreaking ceremony of the cooperation between Thailand and China on the Bangkok-Nong Khai high speed rail development in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand 21 December 2017 (Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Archanun Kohpaiboon, Thammasat University

Thailand has been experiencing a slowdown of economic growth since 2006. Yet, its causes are still undetermined. The often-cited reason, drawn from economic data, is a lack of productivity improvements in the private sector. But as firm-level panel data on Thai economic activity is still at an early stage of development, it is difficult to pinpoint any clear conclusions. The Thai government is launching policies to address tensions concerning productivity as well as to boost short-to-medium-term economic growth. The most recent measure, ‘Thailand 4.0’, represents a combination of promoting industrial transformation and establishing an economic corridor in eastern Thailand. Read more…

Thailand’s water shortage and inequality crisis

A man walks on a dried up swamp in Ayutthaya Thailand, 9 April 2016 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Author: Kanokwan Manorom, Ubon Ratchathani University

Shortages of water are a huge problem for Thailand. The government’s attempts to promote industrial investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) — Chon Buri, Rayong and Chachoengsao — has caused water demand in the region to rise drastically. This has diverted water away from farmers and local people creating an increasingly unfair distribution of water resources. Read more…

Two steps back for politics in Southeast Asia

Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad leaves his seat to deliver his keynote address during an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 28 February 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The grim lesson in Southeast Asian politics this past week — underneath the surface-level dramas — is that the problem of the region’s political systems isn’t too much change, but too much continuity.

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Thai Constitutional Court dissolves another major party

Thai students protest against a court's decision that dissolved the country's second largest opposition Future Forward party, less than a year after an election to end direct military rule, at Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand, 29 February 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun).

Author: Kevin Hewison, UNC Chapel Hill

When a high court dissolves a popular political party, bans its executive committee from electoral politics for 10 years, confiscates party funds and raises the prospect of its leaders being jailed, it is natural to assume that the party has committed a heinous crime. On 21 February, the Thai Constitutional Court (the Court) did just that to the Future Forward Party.

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Thailand takes action on plastic

Tourists hold up their plastic bags as they stand next to the art installation ‘A Bangkok Minute’ made of plastic bags during an event organised by the United Nations Environment Programme at a department store in central Bangkok, Thailand, 5 June 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha).

Authors: Sujitra Vassanadumrongdee, Chulalongkorn University and Danny Marks, City University of Hong Kong

Thais started 2020 with a major lifestyle change. After many retail stores banned plastic bags throughout the country, Thais are now bringing reusable bags when they shop. This ban is the first of its kind in Southeast Asia and is a significant step forward in a country that consumes a large amount of plastic and ranks as one of the world’s top 10 marine plastic polluters. Read more…

Thailand’s plastic bag ban is an overdue step towards pragmatism

A woman uses a shopping bag after the government's ban of single-use plastic, at a shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand, 2 January 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/ Soe Zeya Tun).

Author: Tim Forsyth, LSE

Thailand recently took an important step towards environmental protection when 75 leading retailers stopped issuing plastic bags to shoppers. This step continues a campaign started by environmentalists and local governments in Thailand to reduce urban waste and pollution. The long-term plan is to ban all single-use plastics by 2021. Read more…

Thailand’s military-proxy government remains fragile

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha arrives at Government House to attend a weekly cabinet meeting as the junta marked the third anniversary of a military coup in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 May 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Greg Raymond, ANU

The Thai military used the 24 March 2019 election to embed itself even more deeply in governance. Though there is now a functioning parliament, the democratisation achieved after 1992 has been wound back, lending credence to the judgement that the 2014 coup was a coup of the army, by the army, for the army.

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Managing Thailand’s soaring baht

A Thai Baht note with the images of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is seen during the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in Bangkok, Thailand, 4 May 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

Author: Phornchanok Cumperayot, Chulalongkorn University

The Thai baht has been the best performing currency in emerging Asia since 2018. On a year-on-year basis, it has roared more than 8 per cent against the US dollar and this year reached a six-year high. But according to news headlines and commentary, the strong currency has lowered the country’s competitiveness and worsened both goods exports and tourism, two major drivers of Thailand’s economy. Read more…

ASEAN’s Safe Migration Campaign comes up short

A Myanmar migrant worker sells chickens at a market in Bangkok, Thailand, 16 October 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Author: Tommy KS Koh, Singapore

The ASEAN Safe Migration Campaign was launched in December 2018 at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. Building on the 2017 ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers signed in Manila, the campaign seeks to ‘raise public awareness on safe labour migration that benefits all’. While well-intentioned, the campaign is hindered by a simplistic concept of safe migration that falls short of addressing the challenges faced by migrant workers in the region.

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