K. Mint (Chanikarn Wongviriyawong) has kindly allowed me to share her thoughts on PM Abhisit’s speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. The message below is also available on the Facebook TSAM page and I would like to thank her for sending me a copy so that I may include it as part of the TSAM e-journal :) If you would like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to contact me via Facebook na ka. Look forward to hearing more from other members of TSAM soon :)
K. Mint’s message:
I would like to share some of my thoughts regarding the speech he gave at Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand. A friend of mine had an extra ticket (thank you again!) so I managed to sneak in. I was preparing to have a chance to talk to him afterwards but I was too overwhelmed with the energy of people in the room. In case anyone is interested in hearing my thoughts on his speech, here I am telling all the things I have experienced and have not yet forgotten.
Most people who attended are foreign news correspondents, businessmen, ambassadors, etc. It is a very exciting experience to have met so many important people in just one night.
PM Abhisit started his speech with humbleness and humor. He acknowledged how he was appointed as a prime minister and vowed to do his best following the example of his mentor, K. Chuan, when he was in the same position (leader of the opposing party). He has put great emphasis on the reuniting the country and return thai politics to normal. He promised to deliver justice to the people as he said, “you never get reconciliation unless you get justice”.
The key areas that he was addressing last night are…
1. Equality: He was simply implying this for Thaksin to come back to Thailand to face corruption charges and be treated like any citizen of Thailand under the law. He also said that he had recruited a small grop of people with credibility, neutrality and integrity to ensure that good overview over the last few years about Thaksin charges is available for the police and justice system to investigate. He said, by next week, we will see some concrete results.
He also emphasized that he is planning to regain justice through political reform and government policy reform; and that he has already started a commission to begin this political reform “to reassure that everyone will have a voice in our system.” “My government will not discriminate. We’ll work for all Thais; whether they are rich or poor, no matter what color of shirts they wear.” He said he will serve them equally. He said he will work hard to erase this artificial division among Thais. He stressed his intention to his administration to be responsive and accountable; without corruption or abuse of power. He said he vowed to prove all this so that reconciliation can be made. (bring back justice to people)
i ) economy stimulus package
He said he has visited and talked to many groups, i.e. farmers, workers, businessmen, etc. to find consensus among them, to help them in what they are struggling with. He mentioned that he has visited the bank of Thailand to make sure that both the bank and the government are on the same page as to what next steps might be. He said he wanted to “put money in pockets of people” and get them to start spending in order to stop the declining demand and promote domestic consumption.
He said his government will be transparent in every baht they spend. He emphasized the importance of taking care of the elderly, increasing local authority spending and improving tourism. On top of this current stimulus package, his team is working on a plan B for any contingency.
ii ) Restore confidence in Thailand. He assured the audience that there will be ASEAN summit in Huahin from Feb 27- Mar 1, to prove to people in the world that the images they used to see about Thailand over almost the past 2 years are now in the past.
3. The South:
He said that people used to think that situation in the south is at best ‘stable'; however he wanted to see improvement! He acknowledged that there are still military and police forces in the 3 provinces and that such approach is in no way a long term solution. His government will pass the law to setup officers for southern affairs to make sure that the peace will be established in the 3 provinces. He said he is making a trip to the south this weekend!
At the end of his speech, he said, “I believe in my country and my people” and the quality that we have which is resilience. he is determined to put in all the efforts he has to deliver what he promised and to gain cooperation from all groups. He said, “You can’t just ask for cooperation, you have to earn it.” He promised with his qualification and honesty, he will “pull the country through this crisis and bring out the greatness that he knows exists from the people of Thailand.”
Then there is a long Q&As session. I will only summarize some of the questions and responses.
Q: How long will this government last?
A: It depends on our performance to revive the economy and bring peace and unity to Thailand. If we fail, there is no reason we should stay. He said his job is to do his best.
Q: Regarding tourism, is it a safe time to be in Thailand or not?
A: He said regarding the number of people who flew into bangkok during new year, there are about 80% of the number of passengers that was recorded last year. He said he thinks it’s more of a problem with economy than with the stability of Thailand. He also said that there will be additional measure to ensure security around the airport area.
Q: How will you revive the confidence of foreign investors?
A: He said at first there has to be enough domestic consumptions which is the main aim of the economy stimulus package. He quoted many researches esp in the US which have founded that, this direct way works much faster and more effective than other mechanisms like tax incentives, etc. He also said that there are enough money in the system; we are just not managing it correctly.
Q: With this amount of money, will Thailand be in debt?
A: No. He said we’ve pushed to the limit (getting as much money out as possible, but that won’t exceed the amount of deficit )
Q: Regarding the issues with some people in Abhisit governance are PAD supporters. Won’t this bring disunity to your governance?
A: He said no matter what they choose to do in the past, now we are in the government together so we have to work towards the same goal, which is reuniting the country and moving it forward.
Q: Lese Majeste Law/cases
A: There has been a deliberate attempt to drive the monarchy down. He will not let that happen. The monarchy has immensely benefited Thailand from the very very beginning. He will make sure those cases are discussed in courts on the basis of the law, human rights and freedom of speech.
Q: How will you deal with websites with contents that are inappropriate re: lese majeste?
A: He will deal with it the same way as the other nations would: follow the law. Those people are allowed to write whatever they want to, unless the contents are illegal. There is a big difference between appalling the law and having freedom of speech. He emphasized that he is intended to keep the monarchy above all kinds of conflicts.
Q: Are you afraid of criticism?
A: No. He is willing to accept all criticisms. Just because people think differently doesn’t mean they can’t live together. He cracked a joke that most voters for the democratic party are women, but they sure do get along with men just fine. =) He also said that even leaders are still under the law. “Democracy isn’t just about election; you must also have respect of the law and everyone must be equal under the law.”
Q: There are a few questions about the human rights violation in the south and our current policy re: Burma.
A: In general, his answers are that
Burma: He said, “I believe that sustainable change has to come from within”. And not to deny the greatness of the western approach, Thailand will continue encouraging Burma through our policy on flexible/constructive engagement. He said he will convey the message to Burma that by advancing together as a member of ASEAN, all of the countries including Burma will definitely benefit.
Q: Education problem
A: He understands the current problem in Thai educational system that it is very much centralized. He intended to improve the autonomy of educational system as well as to have a good decentralized system which is catered to the needs of local people.
There are a few more questions but I didn’t catch them as I was planning my move to catch him on his way out for some photos and maybe a few minutes of conversation with him.
I hope you guys enjoy this. I am full of hope for our country, I have sent him a message mentioning about what we are doing and TCDs. Hopefully I will get a reply from him soon ka. I will keep you posted la gun na ka. (PM is very charming and smart….lots of foreigners are really impressed!)