Foreign press explained the state of the nation in Thailand

Thailand’s government spokespersons face the foreign media

Spokespersons of the Thai government on February 19 called for a rare press conference for a large number of foreign media representatives and diplomats in Bangkok, an event entitled “The Government’s Achievements and Missions” obviously aimed at clearing of what the junta might think are foreign misperceptions of their governing style.

“The mission of this government is to put the country forward,” Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman, noted in a rather generalising tone. There were a number of achievements with regards to security and labour issues such as human trafficking, illegal fishing, ivory smuggling and aviation safety, he stated. He also said that the issue of forced labour in some industries such as fishing and seafood processing “will be resolved under this government,” particularly in the light of threats by the European Union (EU) to ban seafood imports from Thailand in case labour standards don’t improve.

Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman Thailand

“We do what we can,” Weerachon, said, adding that “we have taken steps to end slave labour through the requirement for workers to register with the authorities. With regards to the problem of overfishing, we have reduced the number of fishing boats. We will work together with the EU, they can come to Thailand, it doesn’t matter.”

He noted that there was a common misperception that Thailand “moved away” from the international community.

“I am not saying that we are doing 100-per cent the right things, but we have sincerity and we don’t need lobbying from outside because we stand firmly and stick to our international obligations,” he added.

Elections delay – 90 days “not too long”

With regards to general politics and asked about the latest delay of general elections in Thailand, government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkumnerd said that “we know that the people want elections and there will be elections.”

He downplayed the latest 90-day delay from an initial date in November 2018, saying that “90 day is not too long, and we are confident that the postponement will be no longer than these 90 days as the National Legislative Assembly gave clear reasons for it.”

However, he unveiled a more authoritarian approach towards people who have their doubts and are currently protesting for elections to be held this year, mainly student groups and democracy proponents.

“They have to obey the laws of the Thai society. If they do something illegal, we will have to confront them. But in principle, officers don’t want to detain them,” he explained, leaving room for interpretation what “something” could be.

Thai-style democracy explained

That said, media was curious about what was actually meant with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s often-quoted term of “Thai-style democracy.”

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, government spokesman Thailand

Sansern made use of a picturesque metaphor before diving into this very special matter.

“You know that not every trouser fits everyone,” he began.

“We don’t want to move away from the universal concept of democracy,” he asseverated.

“But Thais have a very difficult way of thinking, they tend to use their emotions rather than reason and rationale. This is why our democracies resulted in various incidents in the past, including the latest military intervention,” the audience learned.

“To prevent the problems we had in the past, we need Thai-style democracy. It is based on universal democracy, but some details are not the same, it needs to be adopted” the government spokesman, who spoke in Thai, expounded, without becoming more precise, though.

His notes had some sort of unintentional punch since the simultaneous interpreter spelled the second syllable of “democracy” constantly as in “crazy”, or mad.

Freedom versus respect

Freedom of press and expression of opinion was another topic.

Maj. Gen. Piyapong Klinpan, spokesman of the junta’s central governing body National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), played that one rather nonchalantly.

“In Thailand the press can do what they want, no journalist has been prosecuted or arrested,” Piyapong said, not without mentioning that “our government gets criticised every day.”

Maj. Gen. Piyapong Klinpan, NCPO spokesman Thailand

Asked about current protests and various comments and unflattering results in opinion polls that seemingly are an expression of disparity and anger among the Thai population at the current state of the nation, he said that the NCPO was “open to invite everyone” for reconciliation, but those protesting and criticising “need to respect the law and the nation.”

According to Piyapong, “some people don’t understand that elections do not resolve everything.”

”Political protesters should not lie,” he argued, since the aim of the junta was “to bring happiness back to the people.”

If that and with it the government’s roadmap was achieved, Piyapong said there will also be no longer a use for “Section 44” of the interim Constitution, a clause which empowers the prime minister to issue any order he deems necessary “for the sake of the nation.”

“Solving Rohingya problem at the root cause“

The current problems in neighbouring Myanmar are being taken “very seriously” by the Thai government, deputy government spokesman Weerachon noted.

“We do the best we can. We don’t neglect this problem because we regard it as a very serious one for the region and from a humanitarian perspective. However, we feel it must be addressed at the root cause. We also follow the ASEAN policy of non-interference in other countries’ political and social matters, but we provide humanitarian support, for example through the Red Cross,” he said.

“It’s not just Rohingyas. We currently have 140,000 people in seven border camps from different neighbouring countries, and we help them in accordance to our capabilities. Their countries should also follow human rights principles,” he added.

Investment and skills welcome

With regards to the economy, Weerachon pointed at initiatives aimed at inviting more foreign investors to invest in Thailand and/or transfer technology and skills in key industries, particularly through the Eastern Economic Corridor and, in case of highly skilled individuals in science and technology, through the newly introduced Smart Visa.

Weerachon did not comment on a question whether the rather high minimum monthly salary requirement of 200,000 baht, or around $6,400, for the Smart Visa could be a deterrent for such highly-paid experts who might rather want to move to a Western country with better opportunities under these conditions.

Asked if Thailand would join the revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), now without the U.S., Weerachon said that the government doesn’t rule such a case out, but it needs to study the impact and identify the benefits of a TPP membership over other regional cooperations such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The deputy government spokesman did also not comment on a question what the government’s achievement to curb corruption were, one of its core reform promises.

Pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

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Thailand’s government spokespersons face the foreign media

Spokespersons of the Thai government on February 19 called for a rare press conference for a large number of foreign media representatives and diplomats in Bangkok, an event entitled “The Government’s Achievements and Missions” obviously aimed at clearing of what the junta might think are foreign misperceptions of their governing style.

Thailand’s government spokespersons face the foreign media

Spokespersons of the Thai government on February 19 called for a rare press conference for a large number of foreign media representatives and diplomats in Bangkok, an event entitled “The Government’s Achievements and Missions” obviously aimed at clearing of what the junta might think are foreign misperceptions of their governing style.

“The mission of this government is to put the country forward,” Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman, noted in a rather generalising tone. There were a number of achievements with regards to security and labour issues such as human trafficking, illegal fishing, ivory smuggling and aviation safety, he stated. He also said that the issue of forced labour in some industries such as fishing and seafood processing “will be resolved under this government,” particularly in the light of threats by the European Union (EU) to ban seafood imports from Thailand in case labour standards don’t improve.

Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhondhapatipak, deputy government spokesman Thailand

“We do what we can,” Weerachon, said, adding that “we have taken steps to end slave labour through the requirement for workers to register with the authorities. With regards to the problem of overfishing, we have reduced the number of fishing boats. We will work together with the EU, they can come to Thailand, it doesn’t matter.”

He noted that there was a common misperception that Thailand “moved away” from the international community.

“I am not saying that we are doing 100-per cent the right things, but we have sincerity and we don’t need lobbying from outside because we stand firmly and stick to our international obligations,” he added.

Elections delay – 90 days “not too long”

With regards to general politics and asked about the latest delay of general elections in Thailand, government spokesman Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkumnerd said that “we know that the people want elections and there will be elections.”

He downplayed the latest 90-day delay from an initial date in November 2018, saying that “90 day is not too long, and we are confident that the postponement will be no longer than these 90 days as the National Legislative Assembly gave clear reasons for it.”

However, he unveiled a more authoritarian approach towards people who have their doubts and are currently protesting for elections to be held this year, mainly student groups and democracy proponents.

“They have to obey the laws of the Thai society. If they do something illegal, we will have to confront them. But in principle, officers don’t want to detain them,” he explained, leaving room for interpretation what “something” could be.

Thai-style democracy explained

That said, media was curious about what was actually meant with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s often-quoted term of “Thai-style democracy.”

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, government spokesman Thailand

Sansern made use of a picturesque metaphor before diving into this very special matter.

“You know that not every trouser fits everyone,” he began.

“We don’t want to move away from the universal concept of democracy,” he asseverated.

“But Thais have a very difficult way of thinking, they tend to use their emotions rather than reason and rationale. This is why our democracies resulted in various incidents in the past, including the latest military intervention,” the audience learned.

“To prevent the problems we had in the past, we need Thai-style democracy. It is based on universal democracy, but some details are not the same, it needs to be adopted” the government spokesman, who spoke in Thai, expounded, without becoming more precise, though.

His notes had some sort of unintentional punch since the simultaneous interpreter spelled the second syllable of “democracy” constantly as in “crazy”, or mad.

Freedom versus respect

Freedom of press and expression of opinion was another topic.

Maj. Gen. Piyapong Klinpan, spokesman of the junta’s central governing body National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), played that one rather nonchalantly.

“In Thailand the press can do what they want, no journalist has been prosecuted or arrested,” Piyapong said, not without mentioning that “our government gets criticised every day.”

Maj. Gen. Piyapong Klinpan, NCPO spokesman Thailand

Asked about current protests and various comments and unflattering results in opinion polls that seemingly are an expression of disparity and anger among the Thai population at the current state of the nation, he said that the NCPO was “open to invite everyone” for reconciliation, but those protesting and criticising “need to respect the law and the nation.”

According to Piyapong, “some people don’t understand that elections do not resolve everything.”

”Political protesters should not lie,” he argued, since the aim of the junta was “to bring happiness back to the people.”

If that and with it the government’s roadmap was achieved, Piyapong said there will also be no longer a use for “Section 44” of the interim Constitution, a clause which empowers the prime minister to issue any order he deems necessary “for the sake of the nation.”

“Solving Rohingya problem at the root cause“

The current problems in neighbouring Myanmar are being taken “very seriously” by the Thai government, deputy government spokesman Weerachon noted.

“We do the best we can. We don’t neglect this problem because we regard it as a very serious one for the region and from a humanitarian perspective. However, we feel it must be addressed at the root cause. We also follow the ASEAN policy of non-interference in other countries’ political and social matters, but we provide humanitarian support, for example through the Red Cross,” he said.

“It’s not just Rohingyas. We currently have 140,000 people in seven border camps from different neighbouring countries, and we help them in accordance to our capabilities. Their countries should also follow human rights principles,” he added.

Investment and skills welcome

With regards to the economy, Weerachon pointed at initiatives aimed at inviting more foreign investors to invest in Thailand and/or transfer technology and skills in key industries, particularly through the Eastern Economic Corridor and, in case of highly skilled individuals in science and technology, through the newly introduced Smart Visa.

Weerachon did not comment on a question whether the rather high minimum monthly salary requirement of 200,000 baht, or around $6,400, for the Smart Visa could be a deterrent for such highly-paid experts who might rather want to move to a Western country with better opportunities under these conditions.

Asked if Thailand would join the revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), now without the U.S., Weerachon said that the government doesn’t rule such a case out, but it needs to study the impact and identify the benefits of a TPP membership over other regional cooperations such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

The deputy government spokesman did also not comment on a question what the government’s achievement to curb corruption were, one of its core reform promises.

Pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

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