Battle lines have been drawn for the upcoming general election.
On one side stands the Palang Pracharat Party and its allies, most of whose members have been poached from other major parties. They clearly have a head start given the Thailand 4.0 platform and the ongoing implementation of many of its projects.
People won’t mind the fact that Thailand 4.0 is just an ingenious rebranding of the Eastern Economic Corridor concept – in existence long before the Prayut regime – plus industry clusters along its routes and a comprehensive strategy to tie in with and take advantage of China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road initiatives.
Thailand 4.0 in its present form will likely benefit big businesses – large corporations who have the wherewithal to integrate into the new infrastructures. The business sector, large corporations in particular, won’t mind which government is in charge, as long as there’s continuity and stability so they can confidently plan their investments. They have an obvious motivation to stand behind Prayut’s regime. SMEs won’t be able to benefit as much from Thailand 4.0 in its early stages.
Given this scenario, the only viable strategy for the parties opposing Prayut’s supporters is trying to win the hearts and minds of the grassroots population – something the retired general-cum-politician has been trying to do prior to the election. Although the outcome of the election is nearly assured, thanks to all the advantages the regime has given itself thus far, the grassroots element remains a decisive factor.
And even if the outcome is as predicted, the stability of the next government remains in question if it cannot win over the grassroots people who remain the weakest link in its efforts to cling to power. The health of the economy after the election and its impact on these people will probably be the ultimate train-wrecker.