Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thaksin seeks partnership in Myanmar

Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
speaks in Tokyo on Friday.
Visiting former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra stressed the necessity of a partnership between Japan and Thailand on the development of a special economic zone in Myanmar, an impoverished Southeast Asian country now on the road to democracy.

Thaksin said during an exclusive interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Friday that Myanmar, Thailand's neighbor, has granted Thai companies concessions to develop a special economic zone in Dawei in the southern part of the country.

Economic development of Dawei will be "an important strategy for both Japan and Thailand," Thaksin said.

For instance, if a pipeline connects Dawei with an industrial port area in central Thailand, transportation costs of natural gas and Middle East crude oil could be drastically reduced, according to Thaksin.

Thaksin arrived in Japan on Friday and attended an inauguration ceremony for the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Promotion Organization in Tokyo. During his nine-day visit to Japan, he hopes to strengthen ties with the nation's political and business sectors.

Also, he apparently aims to add some momentum to the development of agricultural regions in Thailand, which form his support base, by boosting Thai and Southeast Asian economies through Japanese investment.

Though he became Thai prime minister in 2001, Thaksin was ousted from power in a 2006 military coup. In 2008, he was given a two-year prison term without a stay of execution for corruption. To avoid prison, Thaksin has been forced to live in de facto exile mainly in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

However, the Pheu Thai (For Thais) Party, which is virtually controlled by Thaksin, won the general election in July last year and his sister Yingluck Shinawatra became prime minister. This has attracted political speculation over whether Thaksin could return home with amnesty.

Asked when he thinks he could go back to Thailand, Thaksin replied, "We have to wait until reconciliation [with anti-Thaksin groups] is really happening."

Thaksin meant he would wait and watch parliament deliberations on a national reconciliation bill to grant amnesty to all parties, including himself, involved in political violence and wrongdoing from the end of 2005 through mid-2010, a period when Thailand was mired in turmoil and street protests.

Although he was criticized for being too authoritarian and plutocratic during his term, Thaksin said he does not regret anything. "If I were prime minister again, I'd do the same thing," Thaksin said.

Dismissing anti-Thaksin sentiment among those in the top military brass and royalist camps who say the former prime minister was not loyal to the Thai monarchy, he said, "They are paranoid of my strong popularity."