2013-02-20 08:29:08 - New Defense research report from Business Monitor International is now available from Fast Market Research
Thailand Q1 2013
BMI's Thailand Defence & Security Report for Q1 2013 examines the country's strategic position in South East Asia and the wider world. It provides an overview of the contemporary geopolitical challenges facing the country, and the challenges it may face in the future.
The report examines the trends occurring in the country's current and future defence procurement, and the order of battle across its armed forces. The report's general conclusion is that the period of relative political and social calm that currently prevails in Thailand is unlikely to last. However, the process of reconciliation that started in 2011-12 by the royalist-military elite and the elected Puea Thai administration of Yingluck Shinawatra appears to have stalled over the highly contentious
issue of whether to allow former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother, to return to Thailand. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with Yingluck's government is on the rise, with the Prime Minister deciding to invoke the Internal Security Act in November in order to deal with anti-government protests. She also survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Full Report Details at
- www.fastmr.com/prod/536570_thailand_defence_security_report_q1_2 ..
Even if a deal is struck regarding Thaksin's future, the deep divisions in Thai society will not be healed quickly. Furthermore, the death of Thailand's long-serving and increasingly frail monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, now looms on the horizon as a potentially destabilising event that could plunge Thailand back into civil strife, as parties with conflicting visions of the country's future compete to realise the modern country that they want to see emerge. In particular, Thailand's grassroots Red Shirt movement, though relatively quiet so far this year, has not gone away.
A spotlight has also been shone on Thailand's strategic position following the visit of US President Barack Obama in November. The US is eager for Thai support as it 'pivots' to Asia, but Thailand is also a close ally of China, the country that feels most threatened by the US' strategic rebalancing. This dilemma was underscored by the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Bangkok just days after Obama's. The Thai government stressed that it regards China as a benevolent force in the Asia Pacific, while also welcoming the US' new focus on the region. However, Bangkok may struggle to maintain this neutral line if tensions between Beijing and Washington increase.
The government and the military also continue between them to fail in their approach to the country's deep south, where a nine-year insurgency intensified during 2012. New initiatives include the establishment of a new joint operations command and possibly the formation of a new army corps dedicated to counterinsurgency operations. However, Bangkok is short of ideas about how to bring its southern provinces under control. As a result, the southern insurgency appears likely to continue into 2013 and beyond.
Over the last quarter BMI has revised the following forecasts/views:
* A major new defence procurement programme was announced in November: the US$1.0bn acquisition of two frigates for the Royal Thai Navy (RTN). A platform is due to be selected by 2014. Bangkok also announced plans to refit the navy's existing frigates at the cost of a further US$100mn. These expensive naval programmes will, however, put paid to the RTN's hopes of procuring submarines, at least for the time being.
* The latest developments in the southern insurgency are discussed in detail, although the mysterious nature of the insurgents - who have never declared their identities or objectives - makes analysis a challenge. The murder of a school principal and the subsequent closure of all primary schools in Narathiwat by teachers who are afraid to go to work underscored the real-world effects of the ongoing violence.
* The implications of Puea Thai's failure to negotiate Thaksin's return to Thailand are also discussed, as are the political tensions that gripped Bangkok in November 2012. The protests, led by a former general who said publicly that he would be in favour of a coup to get rid of Yingluck, clearly unsettled the prime minister as she faced down the first serious challenge of her premiership. Ultimately, the episode ended peacefully, though further challenges can be expected in the future.
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