The period between November 2013 and May 2014 marked a time of political instability and civil unrest in Thailand. There was a sustained campaign of public demonstrations and protests in opposition to the perceived corrupt influence of Thaksin Shinawatra in Thai politics, among other grievances, and a strong motivation to introduce reforms to the political system. Matters came to a head in May 2014 when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office by the Constitutional Court after being found guilty of an abuse of power in a case involving the transfer of a government official from his post. This case was followed by the introduction of martial law by the Royal Thai Army, the removal of the existing democratically elected government and then the subsequent establishment of a military junta led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who officially became prime minister in August 2014.
The financial impact during the period of uncertainty was felt when the value of the baht fell to a three-year low in December 2013 and the main stock index also dropped. There was an initial marked decrease in foreign investment and sectors such as retail and tourism were affected. GDP growth also slowed in the final quarter of the year and this trend continued well into the early months of 2014.
Following the resolution of the political crisis, however, the Thai economy has largely stabilised. Sectors such as real estate have marked a recent uptick in activity. Long-term outbound cross-border work in the projects and energy sector has continued to be strong, particularly in finance and development projects involving emerging markets such as Laos and Myanmar. In the field of telecoms, however, an auction of spectrum to be used for 4G services in Thailand was recently placed on hold by the junta. The long-term impact of the current regime therefore remains to be seen.
The legal market is populated by a number of very well-regarded Thai firms, such as Chandler & Thong-ek Law Offices Limited, Weerawong, Chinnavat & Peangpanor and Siam Premier International Law Office Limited. International law firm Baker & McKenzie is the leading firm in Thailand in terms of its size and practice area coverage. A number of other foreign firms also have a strong presence in the legal market, including Allen & Overy (Thailand) Co, Ltd, Linklaters and Clifford Chance (Thailand) Limited.