U.S. envoy says Thai PM sincere in wanting democracy
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is sincere in his desire to build a sustainable democracy in Thailand, said newly arrived United States Ambassador Glyn Davies after his first and lengthy meeting with the Thai premier last week at Government House in Bangkok marking the opening of another chapter in Thai-U.S. relations.
Davies reiterated that the U.S. has not changed its position that Thailand would be best served by a return to democracy as soon as possible, and said relations would not be at a completely normal level until that is achieved. He encouraged the Prime Minister to allow more opinions and debate to be expressed by all members of Thai society on the reform process and the future direction of the country.
But the ambassador, who arrived in the Kingdom two weeks ago, said a key purpose of the meeting was for him to gain a better understanding of the Prime Minister’s views.
“It was an opportunity for me to listen. I did more listening than talking in the meeting, which was my plan. [The Prime Minister] spoke about his experience and aspirations for a return to democracy here,’’ Davies said, adding that he was confident the Prime Minister was sincere.
“It’s important to reassure sustainable democracy in Thailand. It will be important for the country’s future on economy and security,” the ambassador said. Prime Minister Prayut did not speak to reporters after the meeting.
Thailand is the oldest treaty ally of the U.S. in Asia, but bilateral relations cooled somewhat after the military intervened in politics in May 2014 to bring an end to rising political turmoil and violence that had stymied government and the economy. Prime Minister Prayut explained in greater detail to Davies the situation that led to the intervention.
Bilateral relations have been steadily warming in recent weeks, and Davies’ arrival in the Kingdom is expected to reinforce that trend. The ambassador had met with Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam earlier in the week, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai.
Wissanu assured Davies that elections will be held by May 2017, and both sides discussed strengthening cooperation on public health, law enforcement and bilateral investment.
Foreign Minister Don said that the two countries remain “good friends” and their relations are normal. Cooperation is continuing in fields such as security, law enforcement and the environment, he said.
Davies said that he did not discuss the drafting of the constitution or the Trans Pacific Partnership during his meeting with Prime Minister Prayut. Several Thai and U.S. business groups, as well as some members of the Thai cabinet, have been urging that government to seriously consider joining the 12-nation, U.S.-led trade bloc.
Prime Minister Prayut has said he needs more time to consider the pros and cons of the grouping for Thailand, and that he must also consider the views of other sectors of society that are wary of the agreement.
Thailand Focus Week of November 2, 2015
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