Yingluck is her own woman now

BANGKOK - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is often dismissed as a puppet of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. But nearing the half-way mark of her four year term, she is presiding over the longest period of political and economic stability in Thailand since 2006.

On Monday, Thailand's credit rating was restored to BBB+ by Fitch Ratings four years after political turmoil in 2009 prompted a cut.

"Fitch has revised its assessment of the risks to policy predictability and the investment environment from political and social tensions," the company said.

"The government led by Yingluck Shinawatra has consolidated its position and has faced no serious extra-legal challenges since its election in July 2011."

That same day, Ms Yingluck briefed about 250 people at a Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand dinner on the government's US$66 billion (S$82.5 billion) plan to beef up transport and logistics.

Thailand has not invested enough in infrastructure in recent years and needs to up its game to stay competitive. The creaky railway system is a special focus. A shift from road to rail is seen as energy efficient.

Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow between 4.5 and 5.5 per cent this year, she said.

"Throughout the investment period over the next seven years, it is expected that investments will not only increase the level of GDP on average by around 1 per cent each year but also create around 500,000 jobs," she said.

Ms Yingluck also had an initiative to report: a peace dialogue, brokered by Malaysia, with the Barisan Revolusi Nasional - the biggest active militant group in the south. There remain doubts over the process, however, and violent incidents have decreased but not ceased.

A first round of talks is scheduled in Malaysia on March 28.

One potential hot-button issue ahead is a proposal for amnesty for political figures for cases arising from the turmoil of 2006 to 2010.

It is a divisive issue because critics insist it is a ploy to allow Mr Thaksin - seen by the conservative elites as a corrupt closet Republican - back to Thailand.

The on-again, off-again amnesty proposal is partly aimed at appeasing elements of the Puea Thai party's "red shirt" power base.

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