Thai PM Risks Losing Populist Touch

Thailand's prime minister may be the next victim of the avian bird flu - politically speaking, at least. After denying the disease was a problem for weeks, Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra was forced to change his tune when it became apparent that thousands of small chicken growers - part of his political base - were going to lose livestock and perhaps even their own lives. Thaksin has proven his political skill by curbing bureaucratic red tape, improving the Thai economy, and appealing to voters with a slate of populist programs. He has even become a model for some leaders in Southeast Asia and is said to harbor ambitions of greater prominence. Nonetheless, says this BBC report, Thaksin may be on slippery footing now, as his attempts to downplay recent anti-government violence in the south as well as the bird flu outbreak have given more ammunition to his critics. "The way he has tried to present the country as picture-perfect often leads to a cover-up of various problems and makes the government unable to react in a timely and efficient way," said one Thai human rights activist. Indeed, observers both inside and outside of Thailand are anxious to see how the prime minister deals with the continuing crises. - YaleGlobal

Thai PM Risks Losing Populist Touch

Tim Luard
Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Click here for the original article on BBC News website.

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