Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 05/22/2014 -- As with preceding quarters, large-scale protests and internal political turmoil continue to be the greatest immediate threats to Thailand's security. Over the course of Q114, the political crisis has turned increasingly violent. In February a grenade blast in the capital Bangkok killed two, injuring a further twenty-two. At the same time gunmen opened fire on an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand, killing a five-year old girl Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra described the attacks as 'terrorist acts for political gain'. Worryingly, with violence moving outside Bangkok, the continuing political impasse in Thailand threatens long-term instability in the country.
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Despite general elections being held in Q114 the political impasse in Thailand persists. Thailands's constitutional court ruled the 2 February general election as 'unconstitutional ' because it did not take place on the same day across the country. The lack of a unified election date was the result of protestors blocking the polls. It is not clear when a new election will be scheduled. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban declared that protestors would block polling stations in any future elections, threatening to further escalate the crisis.
This is no doubt a blow to current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who comfortably won the recent invalid election. The Prime Minister is also faces corruption charges relating to negligence over a government rice subsidy scheme. With all this instability and turmoil the military's support- or not- for Prime Minsiter Shinawatra in many ways will dictate Thailand's political future. Interestingly, when asked about the possibility of a military coup, Chief of the Army General Prayuth Chanocha failed to rule it out. If the military gets drawn in, in a repeat of the 2006 military coup, there will certainly be greater scope for escalation.
While there have not been any major new defence deals during Q114, there have been a number of small but significant developments. Thailand's Navy is currently in talks with US defence contractor Havelsan over upgrades for its FFGs, or Oliver Hazard Perry guided missile frigates . These upgrades will see Thailand's fleet of FFGs better suited for modern combat with new sensors and weapons all of which will be integrated into a central command system.
Thailand's military has also expressed significant interest over the acquisition of the Gripen fighter jet from Sweedish manufacturer Saab. With Saab looking to halve the cost of developing and building an upgraded E version of the single engine Gripen, the Gripen is a much more affordable option for Thailand than many other fighter jets. While Thailand may decide to purchase Gripen directly from Saab, there have been rumours in Q114 that Thailand may look to lease a number of Gripen's from Malaysia.
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