The leader: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva
Why he’s got to go: Politicking when he should be governing. Aiding the poor through the downturn should be a bigger priority than scrapping with rivals.
The story: Thailand has been in a state of political turmoil since 2006, when a military coup ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Ever since, Thaksin, a wealthy businessman with strongly populist tendencies, has continued to broadcast potent political messages to his supporters in the country.
For the past month or so, up to 100,000 “red shirt” protesters who support Thaksin have rallied against Abhisit and periodically forced Bangkok to shut down. This month, protesters forced the government to call off a summit of leaders from the ASEAN trade bloc — a tremendous embarrassment for Abhisit — and provoked a military response that left two dead.
In all likelihood, Thaksin’s Keynesian economic policies would benefit Thailand more than Abhisit’s. But regardless of which man seizes power, one thing is certain: Their perpetual infighting has severely harmed the country. An Asian Development Bank economist said political turmoil may cause the economy to contract 5 percent this year, revising his estimate from 2 percent. If neither of the two men can gain control and provide peace, at least they should find a way to protect the Thai economy instead of driving away foreign investment, tourism, and assistance.