Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Country needs fresh start on world stage

Candidate for foreign minister blasts Abhisit

Jul 12, 2011
Source: Bangkok Post

Reversing the confrontational policy of the Abhisit government and taking fresh foreign policy initiatives to regain trust and confidence in the international arena are the most urgent issues for the Pheu Thai-led government, former ambassador Pithaya Pookaman says.

Mr Pithaya, who has emerged as a candidate for foreign minister, has strongly criticised the Democrat-led government's foreign policy in his article "Constructive Re-engagement" posted on the Pheu Thai Party's website ptp.or.th yesterday.

Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had caused an unprecedented aberration in Thai foreign policy as characterised, on the one hand, by their undisguised obsession with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and, on the other, by the propensity to subject Thailand's relations with its neighbours to the vagaries and demands of its domestic politics, he said.

"The juxtaposition of such behaviour was done at the expense of Thailand's respectable international image and amicable relations with its neighbours, particularly with Cambodia, the relations with whom were apparently hijacked by the People's Alliance for Democracy and its splinter groups with their blind nationalistic zeal," Mr Pithaya wrote.

According to the former ambassador, the intention to withdraw Thailand from the World Heritage Committee last month was "the last nail in the coffin that put the Abhisit government to rest as being a laughing stock in the eyes of the international community."

Mr Pithaya viewed Pheu Thai's election victory has fostered an enabling atmosphere in which Thailand and Cambodia can engage in meaningful dialogue to settle their differences.

The advent of Yingluck Shinawatra as the likely first female prime minister will not only witness the re-engagement of Thailand with its neighbours and the international community, but will usher in a new style of diplomacy and fresh foreign policy initiatives.

"Gone will be the abrasive and sabre-rattling style of diplomacy of the previous government," the former ambassador said.

Mr Pithaya, who was 115th on the Pheu Thai party list, told the Bangkok Post that the criticisms and proposals were his personal view, but he was confident that the foreign policy of the next government would be in accordance with his perspective.

Pheu Thai leader Yongyuth Wichaidit yesterday said Mr Pithaya's foreign policy proposals were not the party's stance, which would be made public after the new prime minister declared the government's policy agenda to the House.

Deputy party leader Kanawat Wasinsungworn said Mr Pithaya's article was posted on the "Thailand's direction" page on the party's website which provides an online space for the party's politicians to express their opinions freely.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit, defended the government's handling of foreign affairs.

"Everything we have done was for the benefit and sovereignty of the nation," he said. "Mr Abhisit has been recognised by the international community for his outstanding role in international affairs. It will be difficult for the Pheu Thai government to find such a competent leader to perform on the world stage."

Regarding Thai-Cambodian relations, Mr Chavanond said the matter worsened after the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed People Power Party government allowed Phnom Penh to list Preah Vihear temple as a World Heritage site.

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