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Press Conference

thai.jpg

Thai Foreign Minister is seen sharing friendly and cordial moment with Mr.K.T.Rajasingham

Thailand strongly denies the existence of Tamil Tigers: either bases or militants in their soil.

Thailand will not, either encourage or tolerate any kind of militant or terrorist activities in its soil and there are no Tamil Tiger (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE) activities, so far reported in Thailand. This has been repeatedly conveyed to the Sri Lankan Government. The intelligence agencies of both countries use to exchange information on a regular basis, in this regard and we fully well appreciate the Sri Lankas concern.

This was conveyed, at the press conference, held recently by Dr. Surakiat Sathirathai, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, to brief the foreign media personnel, about Thailands overview of its foreign policy, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok, Thailand.

This writer who attended the Press Conference, asked the Minister, who is also the vice president of the ruling "Thai Rak Thai Party" (Thais love Thais party): "There are allegations, that there are LTTEs training camps and bases in Thailand. It is further alleged that the Tamil separatist movement has established high-powered contacts with Thai authorities, for their covert operation and urged the Minister to comment. The Thai Foreign minister whilst denying those allegations directed his Permanent Secretary, Nitaya Pibulsonggram to make a detail comment on the question.

This writer also asked, in the wake of United Kingdoms proposal to ban the LTTE, whether Thailand too would follow suit, to proscribe the Tamil militant outfit.

Nitaya Pibulsonggram emphasized that, this issue has been taken up at regular intervals and we have allayed the fears of the Government of Sri Lanka repeatedly. We wish to emphasize that, we will not either tolerate, or encourage any form of terrorist activities against any country, including Sri Lanka, in our soil, also within our territorial waters. Our intelligent agencies are on the high alert against any nefarious activities by any anti-human groups. I can boldly say that there are no LTTE militants in Thailand; there may be a few sympathizers, but inconsequential. As long as anyone who does not violate our countrys law, they can remain and do any legitimate business in our country, according to the rules and regulations of the land.

The Permanent Secretary concluded by saying that, as there is no one single LTTE militants in their soil, therefore the question of proscribing them does not arise.

About the numerous investment opportunities available in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was pointed out to the Thai Foreign Minister by this writer and asked for his interest in exploring such available opportunities. Thai Foreign Minister, who earlier held the portfolio of Minister Finance, from 1995 to May 1996, said that it is a very high priority issue, which involves development opportunities and bilateral ties. He said after the courtesy calls to the ASEAN countries, he would plan to visit Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the near future, to explore possibilities for such opportunities.

Minister said that with the view to promote economic cooperation, the organization called BIMST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Mayanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation) was earlier established. It was dealt on the junior ministers' level.

Dr. Surakiart said that, the Organization has to be upgraded to make South Asia part of the development club, with the view to identify investment opportunities available in these countries to promote them in the future.

He added that his topmost priority is economic diplomacy, in the globalize world to push the region towards a common production base both in terms of trade and services with the view to project the right perspective to foreign investors.

Asian values and Asian culture would be the corner stone of his foreign policy, defining an "Asian Way" of non-interference with the domestic affairs of the neighboring countries. He hastened to elaborate that; it doesnt t mean that, we do not respect human rights, or the human democratic values. It means that nations must not force their opinions or cause the leaders on the other side to loose face during any negotiations.

Asian Way" is the new foreign policy formula expounded by Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, who was earlier the Dean and Associate Professor of Law, in the Thailands prestigious higher educational institution Chulalongkorn University. When elaborating on his new foreign policy approach, he said, "Unlike the Westerners, Asians are a different breed of people, who do not like confrontation or head-on collision, but always willing to agree at least to disagree passively, even at the height of severe disagreement, without resorting to violence and aggressions. In addition, Asian people always prefer to conclude any issues, even resorting to a face-saving compromise, instead of allowing the issue to linger-on and gain confrontational stature. These rich values of the Asians, when applied in the diplomatic arena, it would tend to bring about the emergence of a non-confrontational culture, harmony, and peace and good neighborly cooperation.

Thai Foreign Minister started his political career, as Vice Chairman of the Prime Ministers Advisory Council on Economic and Foreign Affairs, chaired by the Late General Chatichai Choonhavan, who was the former Prime Minister (August 1998 February 1991). This writer pointed out to the Minister of the discriminatory approach of Thailand in granting entry visas to the nationals of the SAARC nations. The minister strongly denied that Thailand would not practice any kind of discriminations against the people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Subsequently, a few foreign correspondents pointed out to the Minister, that other nationals from other countries, who visit on "Tourist visa" to Thailand, could go to any Thai embassies or Thai consular missions in the neighboring countries and obtain a new tourist visa to re-enter Thailand. They pointed out that in the case of Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis, Thai missions in the neighboring countries have very prominently displayed notice that, Tourist visas will not be issued from those mission, to those nationals from South Asian countries. According to the displayed announcements, these nationals should go back to their country of their origin, to obtain a new tourist visa from the Thai missions in their respective countries. The minister assured to bring in a uniform procedure regarding the issuance of visas, soon.

Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai when speaking about the overall Thai foreign policy said that his government would adopt:

Proactive economic diplomacy and other diplomatic undertakings to restore and strengthen Thailands international relations as well as explore international cooperation in all fields.

Uphold the principal of security, development and international peace building, with the view to enhancing justice under the framework of the United Nations Organization, of which Thailand is a member.

Promote more proactive role for Thailand in the international community by expanding closer international cooperation and relations between ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) member countries and countries in East Asia, South Asia and other regions, by acting as a coordinator for cooperation, for peace keeping and conflict prevention in the region.

Promote, preserve and protect the national rights and interests, including those of Thailands private sector, Thai labor and its citizens living abroad.

Restore and strengthen Thailands close relations and cooperation for development with its neighboring countries and other Asian countries, by pursuing or initiating relations and cooperation for development in all fields, both bilaterally and multilaterally, with the view to foster good understanding and resolving problems and sharing benefits on a constructive, genuine and peaceful manner.

Dr. Surakriat declared the above five-point policy as not alone the policy of the Thai Foreign Ministry, but also is the "Thai Foreign Policy," which would be very keenly adhered by his government. He added that the Thai foreign policy should reflect the need to rejuvenate the national economy from the grass-roots level and that his ministry would be tasked to give more weight to utilize diplomacy for the optimum benefit of the countrys economy.

Thai Foreign Minister also unveiled his ambitious plan for the creation of a loose, but all embracing, Asian Cooperation Dialogue Forum to bridge the missing links between the thriving regions of East, Central and South Asia. Dr. Surakiart said that the initiative has so far received a warm response from many countries that say Thailand is well poised to coordinate such a framework sooner into a reality.

Existence of such a multilateral Asian Cooperation Dialogue Forum would lead to arriving at a common consensus on several issues of concerns to the nations in the Asian continent. He cited the last years gathering of politicians across the region in Manila as a good example.

To conclude, the young Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai, aged 47 years, considered more as an academic and innovator, has portrayed that the new Thai foreign policy would be a completely different from the pro-Western policies, projected and practiced by the outgoing foreign minister, Surin Pitswan of the previous prime minister, Chuan Lekpais Democratic Party led, coalition government(November 1997 February 2001).

Dr. Surakiarts Asian Way diplomacy is autochthonous is nature blending indigenous skill and culture with democratic values and the policy of non-interference in the neighboring countries, whilst supporting human rights and freedom. The new foreign policy awaits the test of time from the day one of its inauguration.





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Mr.Nitaya Pibulsonggram, Permanent Secretary of the Thai Foreign Ministry, clarifying to Mr.K.T.Rajasingham