Class war in Malaysia – Going the Thai way?

Chalongphob Sussangkarn of Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) identified Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra as the reason for division in Thai society (read here). He must have missed the UNDP Human Development Report on Thailand for 2009 (PDF). The IPS news has this quote:

“The richest Thais earn 14.7 times more than the poorest,” said Gwi-Yeop Son, resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), during the launch of the ‘Thailand Human Development Report 2009’. “The bottom 60 percent of the population’s share of the income is only 25 percent.”

The Malaysian case is not as bad but strikingly similar (Data from The New Economic Model – available here).

40% of Malaysian households earn less than RM1,500 a month;

80% of Malaysian households earn less than RM3,000 a month;

The top 20% has seen income grow but the bottom 40% has seen income remain stagnant for the past 30 years;

The poorest 40% of Malaysian households earn incomes, on average, barely one-seventh that of the richest 20%

Thais do not suffer the potent mix of race and religion in politics as is the case in Malaysia where race and religion dominate political issue. However, the worsening income inequality in Malaysia could just tip the scales for many regime supporters from deference to something more potent.

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a research fellow at Murdoch University's School of Management and Governance, and New Mandala’s Malaysia and Singapore section editor.