Thailand’s junta has announced a plan for an “open economy”, seeking to brand the country as friendly to foreign investment under its new leadership. The FT reports:
[Air Chief] Marshal Juntong told an investment conference in Bangkok that Thailand was “back to normal” after the coup and a tightening of military control culminating in the appointment of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, the putsch leader, as prime minister this week. He said the junta and its handpicked parliament stacked with serving military officers would now focus on improving transport, information and communications technology, energy and investment, to put Thailand on the path of “stable long-term growth” that the central bank predicts could reach 5 per cent over the next year.
The most interesting and ambitious item in the agenda is a much improved rail system between Thailand and China. The FT goes on:
The junta’s $75bn eight-year infrastructure plan would include constructing a 1.4m gauge rail network to link the country to neighbours including China, building ports on both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand sides of the country, raising capacity at Bangkok’s two main airports by more than half, and upgrading other international airports, he said.
An open economy is no substitute for an open society, and so far, the new government has only gestured toward democratic reforms, stating that it hopes to hold elections next year. Any elections that did happen, experts say, would still be strictly controlled. But if the new powers that be in Thailand can keep the country’s economy and the functions of state running, they may be around for some time to come.