Prior to the Asian Economic Crisis sparked by the collapse of the Thai baht in 1997, Southeast Asia looked like a sure bet for a long period of high sustained economic growth. As a region, Southeast Asia's economies are the most open to international trade. While such openness spurred their growth for several decades, in the post 1997 period it has left them increasingly vulnerable to adverse economic and political shocks. Greatly compounding the region's economic woes was the powerful Bali terrorist attack and its impact on tourism. The openness of these economies makes them especially vulnerable to terrorist acts. Despite these challenges, the Thai economy began accelerating from a growth rate of 1.9 percent in 2001 (the year Dr. Thaksin was elected Prime Minister) to 5.3 percent in 2002, to a projected 6.5 percent in 2003, with forecasts of even higher rates in the next several years. Thailand has built on its recent economic successes to quickly become one of the United States' most valued allies in Asia. What is especially interesting about Thailand is the unique set of economic policies implemented during this period of accelerated growth. Often dubbed "Thaksinomics," these policies represent a distinct break from the past. To Thaksin's followers the new economic measures are not only capable of returning Thailand to the pre-1997 glory days of high growth, but perhaps even more importantly, enabling the country to successfully coexist economically with China, while, at the same time, making Thailand a less fertile ground for terrorism. This essay examines the phenomenon of Thaksinomics. What does it replace? What are its main assumptions? The key policies and programs implemented to date? The likelihood of its success? Implications for the United States?
Naval Postgraduate School, Center for Contemporary Conflict: http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil
Strategic Insights (December 2003), v.2 no.12