Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series examining the policies and political challenges facing the new government of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Part I examines domestic issues. Part II will examine foreign policy and the implications for regional stability.
CHIANG MAI -- Weeks into Yingluck Shinawatra's term as Thailand's first female prime minister, the streets of Bangkok are so far free of the protests that have indelibly marked recent years of Thai political life. But that could change. Yingluck's government faces formidable challenges in implementing the ambitious platform that brought her Pheu Thai Party a sweeping victory in July's general elections. It must mend soured relations with neighboring Cambodia, which deteriorated to the point of deadly armed conflict several times under the watch of Yingluck's predecessor, Abhisit Vejjajiva. And it is becoming increasingly clear that Pheu Thai means business on securing what would be a highly controversial amnesty for Yingluck's older brother Thaksin, a former prime minister ousted by the military in 2006. As a result, the contours of Thailand's future strife are taking shape.
The July 3 elections saw Pheu Thai sweep 265 of the 500 seats in Thailand's House of Representatives. By contrast, Abhisit's ruling Democrat Party mustered just 159, a humiliating showing that led to Abhisit's resignation as party leader. Pheu Thai's astonishing performance exceeded the expectations of most observers, with the notable exception of the ever-bullish Thaksin, who had predicted a 270-seat landslide with uncanny accuracy.