Notes from Abhisit’s FCCT Talk Last Night

Former Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva spoke at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand last night. (Details on the event are on the FCCT site here.)

Embedded below and collected here are my Tweets from the evening, in reverse chronological order.

As I’ve noted following Abhisit’s remarks at previous FCCT events, he is a highly adept politician, at least by Western standards: He stays on message, he uses his wit to good effect, he speaks excellent English, and he has a deep knowledge of policy issues.

Overall, my feeling was that the audience of non-journalists — Thais and foreigners alike — were fairly receptive to his remarks.

Abhisit received some cheers for a few of his statements, and though I heard some rumblings of discontent among some in attendance, the environment was not at all hostile.

(Of course, that may have to do with the fact that the non-media audience was self-selecting: His supporters are more likely to turn out to hear him speak, perhaps, than his detractors.)

To summarize a few notable elements of Abhisit’s remarks:

  • He argued that his administration focused on economic issues and aimed to restore “some normalcy” to Thai politics.
  • He said Yingluck’s government is forsaking economic development and focusing on amnesty for Thaksin, and that such amnesty will only create more divisions in Thai society.
  • Regarding exiled former PM Thaksin’s potential return, he said that if Thaksin comes back and serves even a short sentence but is pardoned legally, “we’re fine with that.”
  • Abhisit was asked if he felt any personal responsibility for the 2010 violence. He said, before elaborating, “we are all responsible in some way or another.”


BBC interviews with Abhisit and Thaksin

The BBC on Sunday posted a text story about the upcoming election. Of particular interest are the embedded video interviews with Abhisit and Thaksin. Worth a watch.

As I noted following Abhisit’s address to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club here in Bangkok in March, he is a skillful politician.

Some analysts say he cannot connect with common people. But on “Hard Talk,” in the featured video, he was characteristically poised and on-message, and this surely must resound with an international audience. Just a thought.

Abhisit and Democrats gathering at Rajaprasong today

2011 03 22 abhisit

As I mentioned earlier, Thai interim Prime Minister Abhisit and the Democrats plan to rally today at Rajaprasong intersection.

The Bangkok Post says the PM plans to unveil “new details” about last year’s violence:

At their campaign rally in the Ratchaprasong area today Democrats plan to release new details on who may have killed 92 people during the political unrest in April and May last year, say party executives.

Earlier, the Nation said the party is:

ready to face the consequences of its plan to rally at Ratchaprasong and express its views on the bloody military crackdown last year…

MCOT notes that Puea Thai says its red shirt supporters should steer clear of the gathering:

The Pheu Thai Party on Wednesday issued a statement asking its members and supporters to stay away from the Democrat Party rally at Ratchaprasong, citing concerns over possible disturbances by third parties.

I plan to attend the rally this evening and will be Tweeting (@newley) photos and observations.

More soon…

Reuters: “Thai PM fears instability if opposition wins vote”

According to a Reuters story today, Thai Caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit says the Democrats can still win, but worries about the opposition “ruining the rule of law” if it wins:

Asked to elaborate on what he saw as the risks if the opposition prevailed, he said: “Ruining the rule of law, causing instability and therefore a loss of economic opportunity.”

It’s official: Thailand elections set for July 3

The AP says:

Thailand’s king has approved a decree dissolving the lower house of Parliament and setting general elections for July 3, the government spokesman said Monday.

Here’s the nitty-gritty:

The polls will elect 500 members of the lower house, an increase of 20 from the outgoing chamber.

The elections are expected to be fiercely contested between Abhisit’s ruling Democrat Party and the main opposition Puea Thai Party associated with Thaksin.

The Democrats held 172 seats in the outgoing lower house compared to 186 for Puea Thai, which won the most seats in the last elections in 2007 and formed a government that ruled for about a year.

However, controversial court rulings and militant anti-Thaksin demonstrations helped Abhisit’s Democrats take power by wooing enough lawmakers to join a new ruling coalition.

Polls suggest that Puea Thai will win the most seats, but probably not a majority. If so, the balance of power will lie with smaller parties whose allegiances are often won by the number of Cabinet seats they are offered in a coalition government.

The WSJ has more analysis:

Political analysts say the election will be among the most important this key Southeast Asian economy has ever faced and could set the political tone in the country for years to come, determining whether it gets back on track after years of instability or possibly faces renwed unrest.

Here’s more from Reuters, the BBC, and AFP.

And finally, a technical note: It appears that Abhisit is transitioning from his @PM_Abhisit Twitter handle to @Abhisit_DP. (The “DP” presumably stands for Democrat Party.)

Thai PM: new elections should take place July 3

Thai PM Abhisit told Reuters yesterday that new elections should take place on July 3:

Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expects to hold general elections on July 3 in the politically polarised Southeast Asian country, he told Reuters on Sunday.

“The election should be on the third of July,” Abhisit told Reuters on the sidelines of a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta.