Sunday, August 29, 2010

After the Bloodbath (Relations between Germany and Thailand)

After the Bloodbath
(Own report) - In the aftermath of the bloody repression of mass protests in Bangkok, the German government is expanding its economic relations with Thailand. "In spite of the persisting domestic crisis" the Thai economy is booming. According to the German Ministry of the Economy, the Thai economic growth is expected to reach around six percent in 2010, and according to business circles, German enterprises are hoping to significantly expand their businesses in Bangkok. At the beginning of July, the Thai foreign minister visited Berlin to give impetus to bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Thailand's government is being sharply criticized internationally, because it came to power through a military coup and had its military brutally repress mass protests in the capital this spring. Recently lawsuits to have the party of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit and his Foreign Minister Kasit dissolved were initiated. This party is being supported by the German Friedrich Naumann Foundation, which is affiliated with the party of Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, and the Minister of the Economy, Rainer Brüderle, with whom Kasit had held talks in Berlin at the beginning of the month.
Network Monarchy
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya visited Berlin only a matter of weeks after the bloody repression of the Thai democracy movement. From the beginning of March to mid-May, hundreds of thousands had demonstrated in Bangkok demanding immediate new elections. The government called out the soldiers against the demonstrators and used snipers. Nearly 90 people were killed in the course of the repression and almost 2,000 were wounded. Behind the persisting tensions, is the chasm between the elites comprised of the military, big industry, the judiciary and palace circles on the one hand - known among experts as the "Network Monarchy" - and the poverty stricken segments of the population who are growing increasingly rebellious. In 2006, the "Network Monarchy" overthrew the incumbent Prime Minister Thaksin, in a military coup. Thaksin was overthrown because his social policies had won him the support of the poverty stricken rural masses and was therefore seen as a potential danger to the traditional elites. Following complicated intrigues, the Democrat Party took over the government in December 2008, under pressure of the establishment - but without the necessary democratic legitimation, which is why it has been heavily contested ever since.[1]
Partners and Friends
Foreign Minister Kasit, like Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva are not unknowns in Berlin, particularly in the circles of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). Both are members of the Democrat Party, representing the interests of the traditional Thai establishment and closely allied with the FDP, cooperating particularly with the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The "Annual Meeting with Partners and Friends", organized in Bangkok at the end of 2009 by the Naumann Foundation is an example of this cooperation. The meeting was attended by Thai Minister of Finances, Korn Chatikavanij and Foreign Minister Kasit, who presented his government's foreign policy in the keynote address. The speakers at the meeting included the German ambassador to Thailand, Hanns Schumacher (who is also the director of the Naumann office in Bangkok) and Rainer Adam, who thanked the "Thai partners" for their "common engagement for freedom in the threatened democracy".[2] During the period of the mass demonstrations this spring, representatives of the Naumann Foundation were available for talks with the beleaguered Democrat Party, on at least two occasions, giving another indication of the closeness of this cooperation. ( reported.[3])
Democracy and Rule of Law
Intimately familiar milieus met when Kasit visited Berlin at the beginning of July and held talks with Foreign Minister Westerwelle (FDP) and Economics Minister Brüderle (FDP). As the foreign ministry subsequently reported, Kasit promised his German counterparts to "make progress in democracy and rule of law" and "pleaded for more German advice and support in this undertaking."[4] It is very well possible that the Friedrich Naumann Foundation will be asked to apply the necessary measures, after all, the foundation had attempted on various occasions in the past to instruct the Democrat Party in strategies for achieving the participation of the people of Thailand in the democratic process.[5] This is meant seriously. Economics Minister Brüderle pointed out to Kasit that only with "democracy" and with "respecting the principles of rule of law" can "permanently stable political relations be established" that "can lead to new investments and long-term economic growth."[6] Kasit was pleading for these investments, when he appeared in Berlin before the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), where he announced a government spending program ("Stability Packet") aimed particularly at infrastructure projects. In these projects, the Thai government is "open for foreign investments."[7]
Strong Growth
This is of interest to German enterprises. About 500 German companies are currently active in Thailand, with a bilateral trade volume at around six billion Euros in 2008. (A slump occurred in the 2009 crisis year). This volume is not particularly high, but it can be improved. Experts are predicting an economic growth of between five and six percent for Thailand this year, which provides a positive perspective for the crisis-ridden German industry for their businesses in Thailand. The business relations with Thailand are also strategically important because in the West, Southeast Asia is considered to be the "back yard" of the People's Republic of China. In Berlin, one hears that more presence must be shown there, to force back Bejing's influence. ( reported.[8]) With this intention, the German government finds open ears in the Democrat Party and Prime Minister Abhisit.
Competent Economy Policy
The German Ambassador to Thailand, Hanns Schumacher, delivered therefore a positive assessment of the Abhisit government.[9] It is "one of the region's most competent in economic policy," writes Schumacher, he knows "of not a single German company" "that wants to leave Thailand because of an impending civil war - quite on the contrary." Bayer, for example, is expecting double-digit growth for 2010. Given the preponderant influence of the military, "one can still not speak of a democratic premise for policy," only early elections "could serve as a safety valve for pent up tensions." But Ambassador Schumacher asserted that the government, in any case, was functioning "fully conscious of the problem". According to the diplomat, new elections would thereby bring advantages to both sides. The Democrat Party, "whose merits lie in the economic upswing, being felt by everyone, can, use the astute scheduling of anticipated elections in the public debate to its advantage" while German companies will not only benefit from the economic upswing, but also from the aspired stabilization of the country's situation through the elections.
Threatened With Dissolution
But the possibility that the Democrat Party could be dissolved is annoying from the perspective of the German government and German business. An anti-corruption lawsuit has been initiated, which could lead to an abrupt end of the party's activities. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the FDP - including its ministers - would lose a seasoned partner in Thailand, which, even though responsible for a bloodbath, takes care of German interests in that country.
[1] see also Friends of the Monarchy and Das Netzwerk Monarchie
[2] Thailand: Erfolgreiche Kooperation mit der Stiftung;
[3] see also Friends of the Monarchy and A Relaxed and Comfortable Putsch
[4] Deutschland unterstützt Thailand auf dem Weg der Versöhnung; 05.07.2010
[5] see also Friends of the Monarchy
[6] Bundesminister Brüderle trifft den thailändischen Außenminister Kasit Piromya; 06.07.2010
[7] Aktuelle außenpolitische Entwicklung in Thailand und zukünftige Politik der Regierung;
[8] see also "Chinas Hoflieferanten", Den Gürtel schließen, Auf nach Asien! (II) and Anti-China Coalition
[9] Hanns Schumacher: Sorgenkind Thailand? Insight Asia-Pacific Juli 2010