Thursday, September 25, 2008

foreign diplomats remained unconvinced

The diplomatic corps has breathed a sigh of relief at the possibility of violence on the streets decreasing, but many ambassadors believe the government will not last long as several political time-bombs are waiting to explode.

United States ambassador to Thailand Eric John was the first foreign diplomat to meet new Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat on Monday at Mr Somchai's house, and the American embassy's team has gradually met many of the key ministers, who were sworn in yesterday.

Mr John went straight to the point and asked Mr Somchai if his cabinet was only a "stop-gap" measure before the next election in a few months, according to a source. The prime minister did not reply, but pledged to do his best during his tenure, the source added.

Outgoing Chinese ambassador to Thailand Zhang Jiuhuan was the second diplomat to meet former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's brother-in-law.

The US and China have played a quiet, but important role in voicing concerns from the international community about the Thai political scene over the past few years.

Japan and the European Commission also took a tough stance when the military staged a coup two years ago and expressed their concerns about the violent political turbulence during the past few months. Their voices represent key traders and investors in Thailand.

Despite the combination of political clowns and gangsters, which include nominees and relatives of banned politicians from the defunct Thai Rak Thai party, the Somchai government is the main legitimate political force in Thailand, said a European diplomat.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupying Government House - the centre of administration - gives the country a bad image in the eyes of the foreign community.

"We are sympathetic to Thailand and we know that our stance might not please somebody like the anti-government forces, but this country has come through difficult times over several years and what you need is a more quiet political life - it's better to get Thailand out of the headlines on CNN and the BBC or see comments in The Economist, New York Times and International Herald Tribune," a diplomat based in Bangkok said.

Hopefully, the People Power party-led government will manage to have some political life before the House dissolution, with certain agreements to be reached with the PAD on how to amend the constitution.

Foreign diplomats realise the government is only an interim administration. One thing they do know is that Mr Thaksin will still happily carry his diplomatic passport, at least until the end of the year.

They are also closely watching how amicably Thailand's conflicts with Cambodia will be resolved, with people who know Cambodian strongman and Prime Minister Hun Sen sitting in the new administration.

What they are more concerned with is how the government can win back the confidence of foreign and domestic investors, as well as tourists, to stimulate the economy in the months ahead.

No comments: