08/24/2011, 00.00
THAILAND
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Economic stability and reconciliation, Yingluck Shinawatra’s goals

The new prime minister made her first policy statement in parliament yesterday. She pledged to crack down on drugs and tax evasion and raise the minimum wage. She did not however give a timeframe. The opposition criticises her plans. Former PM Thaksin denies allegations he is involved in his sister’s political choices, but if “she calls me, I give her advice".
Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In her first policy statement to parliament yesterday as Thailand’s new prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra stressed the need for “economic stability” and “national reconciliation” after years of deep political and social divisions. The country’s first female head of government also announced tax breaks for business, a lighter load for farmers, more money for rural development and a reduction in petrol prices.

“We will administer the country with honesty and efficiency to bring the country toward prosperity, reconciliation and justice,” said Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in exile in Dubai after receiving a two-year sentence for corruption.

The new prime minister also said that her government would focus on cracking down on drugs, fighting corruption as well as building peace in the south, a region plagued by Islamic fundamentalist militancy and Malay separatism.

She said the government would raise the daily minimum wage to 300 baht (USS$ 12), a proposal criticised by the opposition. In her address, she did not lay out any timeframe for her plan, one that could also push many companies to move production abroad.

Speaking about Yingluck’s address, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva urged the government to do what it says. The new government, in his view, is in a good position to lead Thailand out of its current economic crisis because of the solid financial foundations laid down by his own government.

Thaksin, who is currently in Japan, also spoke about the country’s political situation, causing further controversy at home.

He said he would not return to Thailand and denied allegations that he was involved with the new administration. The telecommunications tycoon said that he would not intervene in his sister’s choices, but if “she calls me, I give her advice".

For her part, Thaksin’s former wife, Ms Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, has had some good news. An appeal court has dismissed tax evasion charges against her. When she was married to Thaksin, she played a key role in the development of his empire. In 2008, a lower court had sentenced her to three years behind bars.
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