Author: Pisit Leeahtam, Chiang Mai UniversityAfter facing two violent street protests in the last two years, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s coalition government started 2011 in relative calm.The then-opposition Pheu Thai Party was without a visible leader, and many saw the red shirts as still suffering from the May 2010 violence and thus unlikely to stage another street protest.In contrast, Abhisit maintained strong royalist and military support, and was accepted by the middle class and elites

The business environment was favourable as activity picked up strongly after Thailand’s political turmoil and the global financial slow-down. Agricultural output and tourism had improved, and consequently labour demand surged to the point of engendering a widespread shortage in both skilled and unskilled labour.

The global food crisis and demand for commodities helped boost prices, and thus farmers’ incomes. Much of the government’s extra-budgetary spending from the 2009 stimulus package was also ready for cash disbursement. Conditions seemed favourable to call the general election, which was due to take place by the end of 2011.

But the government had failed to address a basic economic problem with widespread social impacts — price hikes in food and commodities, and a shortage of key supplies for households.

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Thailand in 2011: a year of surprises

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