Thai politics Thailand

WSJ: Abhisit says he’ll dissolve House by Friday

A Wall Street Journal story today:

Thai Prime Minister to Call Election

BANGKOK—Thailand’s Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he plans to dissolve the House of Representatives by Friday and call what he described as a landmark election for the Southeast Asian country, which has been plagued by deep and sometimes deadly political divisions.

The piece also includes a ten minute interview with Abhisit, embedded below:

Thai politics Thailand

Notes from Thai PM Abhisit’s FCCT speech

2011 03 22 abhisit

As promised, here are some quotes from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s annual Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand speech last night.

But first, a few general observations. This has been been noted many times before, but I just want to reiterate: Abhisit is quite a skillful politician. He is a highly articulate English speaker, making him well-equipped to deal with the foreign media; he stays on message; he remains calm and is not easily provoked; and he is gifted at using humor to take the sting out of difficult questions and engender sympathy with his audience.

In his speech, Abhisit seemed to focus on pocketbook issues: The country’s economy is improving, he said. His administration wants to focus on stability. And the “silent majority” of Thais feel their voices have been drowned out by noisy red shirt demonstrators.

The crowd — journalists, diplomats, members of the business community, etc. — seemed fairly receptive of the speech, and the few times he received serious needling from reporters, the crowd seemed mostly on the PM’s side.

In roughly the order that he touched on these subjects in his speech and in the subsequent Q&A, here are some snippets:

On his future:

“Maybe you’ll be wondering if I’ll be here next year. I’m wondering, too.”

On his tenure:

“The point I’d like to make tonight is that it’s time for Thailand to move forward. We’ve improved so much over the last two years during my tenure, and a few years before that we were in turbulence and (had) political challenges. But at least over the last couple of years, there has been a government focused on moving the country forward.”

On the economy:

“It’s not just about the macroeconomic numbers that you see today,” such as a move from a contraction in the economy to growth. Tourists and export numbers are improving, and “we have been able to keep fiscal and monetary stability despite the scale of the financial crisis that hit the global economy.” The debt to GDP ratio is good, and unemployment is low.

But “the Thai people still deserve more, and despite the fact that we’ve moved on from the economic crisis, Thai people face new challenges like rising prices, and the cost of living is going up.”

“We recognize that the number one problem now is to help people fight high prices.”

On education:

The government is focusing on “free basic education for 15 years, so that families are now comfortable about having their kids in school.”

Questions for voters and the timing of new election (June or July):

“Do you want to move forward with the policies that we have initiated and will build on, or do they want to stay in this cycle of conflict and violence? Do they want a government that will continue to put their interests first, or do they want people who are still tied to one person’s interests and wouldn’t allow the country and the Thai people to move beyond (it)? That’s the choice that will be facing the Thai electorate in the end of June or at the latest the end of July.”

Elections “will be an opportunity for the silent majority to be heard…for the majority of Thais, a lot of them feel their voices have been ignored” while demonstrators have been noisy.

“I hope that by the time next year’s FCCT dinner arrives, I shall be here to report further progress on delivering the people’s policies…”

On his legacy:

“I hope that these last two years…the government (will be seen as having) steered the economy through crisis, allowed the political institutions to work again since they were in paralysis…and most significantly…to create greater security and welfare for the Thai people.”

On the strengthening baht:

“We don’t have a baht problem, we have a dollar problem.” “All regional currencies have appreciated,” as well.

On his citizenship — and football:

“It was never a secret” that he is a British citizen. “I was born in Newcastle,” he said, and he is a Newcastle football supporter. He’s never had “divided loyalties” between the UK and Thailand. “The people who are questioning my nationality are not doing so because they are suspicious of my (citizenship or loyalties), they just want to take me to the ICC.”

“In fact,” he said, “I recall that the former British ambassador was very disappointed to learn that during the World Cup I supported Argentina.”

He also discussed Thailand-Myanmar relations, the Rohingya issue, and tourism in Phuket. But these passages stand out, for me, as being the most memorable.

Thai politics Thailand

Thai PM Abhisit’s FCCT dinner tonight

Tonight is the annual prime minister’s dinner with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT). Details on the event are here.

Just as I did last year and the year before, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the evening. Stay tuned…

Thai politics Thailand

Reuters: “Thai PM says has the edge in close election”

A Reuters story from yesterday: Exclusive: Thai PM says has the edge in close election:

Thailand’s prime minister said on Wednesday his Democrat Party would have the edge in a mid-year election but he would probably need to form a coalition to govern, signaling a close and potentially volatile poll.

In an interview with Reuters, 46-year-old, Oxford University-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva said he expected the election to bring stability to the troubled country, regardless of who wins, and an alliance with smaller parties would probably pave the way for him to form a government.

“We are looking at some time around the first half of this year,” Abhisit said of the election, his firmest indication yet of the timing for a poll. “It is a close election like last time, except that we are slightly ahead. The latest polls show we are ahead in all polls except the northeast.”

Thai politics Thailand

AFP: “Thailand invites Obama to patch up”

2011 02 03 panitan

AFP: Thailand invites Obama to patch up:

As the United States steps up its focus on Southeast Asia, its oldest regional ally Thailand is inviting President Barack Obama to visit as it tries to shed images of last year’s political violence.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva sent a special envoy to Washington this week to convince US policymakers that the kingdom is returning to stability and is committed to shift its fractious politics from the street to the ballot box.

“Our mission is to tell them that we’re back in business,” envoy Panitan Wattanayagorn, who also serves as the Thai government’s acting spokesman, told AFP on Wednesday.


Obama has promised to attend the next East Asian Summit, tentatively slated for October on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali. A month later, Obama will welcome Asia-Pacific leaders to his native Hawaii for an annual summit.

Panitan said that Thailand welcomed the warming US relationship with Indonesia, which the Obama administration sees as an ideal partner in light of its vast, moderate Muslim population and its rapid shift to democracy.

But Panitan said that Thailand also sought a stop by Obama.

“We are working hard for that,” he said. “A visit would be very good. By that time, we should have a new government in office.”

(Emphasis mine.)

Image: AFP.

Thai politics Thailand

WSJ: “Thaksin Seeks Probe of Thai Street Protests”


Former Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra’s lawyers Monday said they have filed a petition to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands to investigate the way Thailand’s security forces suppressed massive street protests in the Thai capital last year. The move could embarrass the country’s army-backed government and further fray nerves in a country still coming to terms with the extent of last May’s violence, in which 91 people were killed and hundreds more injured.

It’s unclear whether the court will accept the petition; Thailand isn’t one of the 144 members of the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Some analysts portrayed the petition as a way to seek to invigorate a fresh round of antigovernment protests in Bangkok or otherwise generate publicity for Mr. Thaksin, a former prime minister deposed in a 2006 coup.

Thai politics

Thai PM Abhisit on Egypt protests

Thai PM: Leaders must exercise restraint against protesters

Thailand’s Prime Minister has called on leaders troubled by civil unrest to exercise restraint, less than a year after a bloody military crackdown on the streets of Bangkok.
Abhisit Vejjajiva sent in government troops to quell long-running Red Shirt protests in the Thai capital last May. Ninety-one people died and hundreds were injured in the street battles that followed.

But as thousands gathered on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to demand an end to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-rule, Abhisit — speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland — told CNN leaders should respect the wishes of their people.

Abhisit said as long as demonstrators did not resort to violence, governments had a responsibility to restrict the use of force.

“When the protesters were peaceful [when they] were exercising their constitutional rights, there was absolutely no need for any kind of force to be used.
“Unfortunately in the protests in April and May there was violence — grenades launched, invading hospitals and so on — and we had to make sure that order had to be preserved.”