Thais fly national flag to celebrate end of IMF debt

THAILAND is awash in red, white and blue.  

The national flag is fluttering all over the country as the government’s new campaign to instil pride and patriotism gets into its first week. 

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launched the “Fly the National Flag” campaign last Thursday, a day after Thailand repaid US$1.6bil (RM6bil) – the last instalment of the US$60bil (RM228bil) debt owed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

The day has been dubbed “Independence Day.” 

The flags are not displayed just on buildings, offices and homes but also along roads and highways, and on bridges and the banks of rivers and canals. 

Thaksin urged the people to also fly the flag for another major event in the Thai calendar – Queen Sirikit's 72nd birthday on Aug 12.  

His political rivals, however, have accused him of trying to gain political mileage out of the IMF debt-free status. 

In a move aimed at taking the shine out of Thaksin, the Democrat Party outlined a new eight-point policy on good governance on Friday. 

Its leader Banyat Bantadtan accused the government of “depleting the state coffers through populist policies” such as a 30 baht medical care programme, a one-million-baht village fund, a poor people's bank and a housing programme for the poor. 

The Democrats have also put up billboards around the capital and highways warning people against government-encouraged “consumerism.” 

The billboards implied that Thailand could face another economic crisis if the people continued to spend instead of save. 

In his weekend radio address, Thaksin said the 1997 economic crisis stemmed from many weaknesses including lack of knowledge and failure to see the danger signs. 

“Thailand will continue to have a good relationship with the IMF, but no longer in the status of a debtor.  

“We must work to solve problems, and to study economic figures, looking at indicators of strengths, weaknesses, and dangerous situations. We must also keep an eye on global changes, and act promptly to solve these situations. 

“This government will lay down a strong system to ensure that we do not become indebted to the IMF again in the future,” he said.  

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