Sunday, September 7, 2008

Is Samek really off to New York?-The same trip Thaksin took???

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej claimed Sunday he would attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month to explain the country's political situation to the international community - the exact trip his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra took two years ago when he was overthrown in a coup.

In his weekly "Talking Samak Style" Sunday television programme, however, the prime minister said he was not worried about a military coup occurring while he is in New York at UN annual meeting which starts on Sept 23.

His political ally former premier Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted from power by a coup on Sept 19, 2006, while he was attending the UN session.

After a violent street clash between pro-government thugs and PAD followers on Tuesday, Samak declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, essentially handing power over to the military.

But to the surprise of many, Army Commander-in-Chief General Anupong Paojinda has refused to use force to remove the protestors from Government House, openly flaunting the emergency decree which makes political gatherings of more than five people illegal.

Gen There are more than 3,000 PAD demonstrators camped at Government House, which is turning into more of a health hazard daily.

Anupong, in a press conference Tuesday, also claimed that a coup d'etat was out of the question. "That door has been closed forever," he said, although many Thai generals have said that before him.

There have been 19 coups since Thailand ended the absolute monarchy in 1932, the most recent being just two years ago.

Samak is a 73-year-old veteran of Thailand's rough-and-tumble politics whose career peaked last February, when he was named prime minister. He has flatly refused calls on him to resign, claiming he must stay on to the "preserve the nation's democracy."

If he keeps his job for the rest of the year he can look forward to attending several high-profile international events, including the UN General Assembly in New York, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Peru in November and the Association of South-East Asian Nations Summit in Bangkok in December.

Despite the political chaos in Bangkok, the majority of foreigners visiting the kingdom last week were apparently unaffected by the conflict.

An ABAC poll of 532 foreign tourists and business people visiting Thailand for the first time found that almost 60 per cent viewed the incidents as "normal" in a democratic system.

The street fight and protests have been held in the old part of the capital, where the majority of government offices are located, far away from Bangkok's business, shopping and main residential districts.

Foreign businessmen operating in Thailand for years have been similarly indifferent to the political crisis.

"I think major investors, mostly Japanese, don't care about politics," said Stefan Buerkle, president of the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce.

"All of us who have been doing business here for a while don't care too much about politics as well because there is usually no big impact."

The Thai economy is expected to grow more than 5 per cent this year. (dpa )

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