BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

Thailand's PM on protests and economic growth

Now Reading:

Thailand's PM on protests and economic growth

Text size Aa Aa

Thailand has again been experiencing anti-government protests, but nothing on the scale of the demonstrations there last year that left scores of people dead.

We spoke to Thailand’s prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva about the latest unrest as he attended the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. The reporter is Isabelle Kumar.

euronews:

“Prime minister many thanks for joining us. There have been renewed demonstrations from your red shirt opponents and yellow shirt supporters. Is Thailand once again on the brink of turmoil?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“No I don’t think so. There has been greater stability. Obviously we have just lifted the state of emergency so these groups can exercise their rights more openly. In fact we have had some demonstrations throughout the rest of last year even after the April May events. This year I have already said there will be elections. So I think they should all be focused now on moving the country forward after the elections.”

euronews:

“When are those elections going to take place?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“Well, I set three conditions. The first is the economy. We are confident now that the recovery is well underway – we enjoyed eight percent growth last year – that momentum is carrying on. We are about to complete the electoral amendments on the electoral system, I can now say that parliament has decided on the rules of the game. So that is expected to be completed next month. And if there continues to be stability I think it will be a good time to go to elections.”

euronews:

“Are you prepared to call in the army again if those protests escalate?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“Well we hope it won’t happen, because we have said that if everybody is really going to move the country forward, I am willing to hold the elections early, so let’s go to elections.”

euronews:

“You didn’t answer my question, would you call in the army again?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“My job is to preserve order, to make sure there is rule of law, we have to enforce the law when we can, but we have always shown the utmost restraint and tolerance, and again I think we want to use reasons to bring all parties to recognise that we are heading towards elections and things should be resolved through the ballot box.”

euronews:

“When you took the premiership of Thailand did you expect so much bloodshed?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“No, obviously not, and it would not have happened had there been no armed elements with the protesters. I think we have proved back in 2009 that there could be demonstrations that we would be able to handle in a peaceful manner but it was unfortunate that there were armed elements that infiltrated into the movement and that they were causing problems and violence and we had to keep order.”

euronews:

“Human Rights watch has taken issue with you do you think you are really addressing their concerns?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“Yes I do, and I think it is unfortunate that some of those reports are still based on one sided accounts given by people. We are very open, I have met with a number of these groups and we have addresssed their concerns, we always do. For instance there are some red shirt leaders that were detained – we have worked towards (releasing them on) bail and we were able to have the courts give bail to a number of people, but it is at the discretion of the courts, but we are willing to work on rights issues and we always have.”

euronews:

“If that is the case why are there still demonstrations taking place on the streets?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“You cannot satisfy everybody and there might be a fundamental difference between what they believe and what you believe. But the key is to respect each other and operate within the law. I have always said that they have the right to demonstrate but they have to do so peacefully without arms.”

euronews:

“Let’s talk about the economy – we are in Davos after all – are you worried about China ? Is China going to infringe on your economic progress?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“On the contrary I think China has provide a very significant engine of growth for us, there are trade opportunites, there is a bigger market – and she (China) is also actively participating in key investments in infrastructure as we move ahead, not just in Thailand but also in the Mekong sub region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Yunnan Province in China). So I know that we have to compete for investment with China but I think we have a niche market in a number of industries, and on balance I think China has been a positive contribution to our recovery.”

euronews:

“At the World Economic Forum here in Davos do you get the feeling that world leaders are watching you closely and judging you?”

Abhisit Vejjajiva:

“Well I think they recognise the strength and resilience of Thailand, particularly what we have been through and we have managed to register an impressive rate of growth and we have come through the crisis without a big impact on employment or on our debt-GDP ratio. So I think a number of leaders would like to take up opportunities, engaging with us even more. Some of them recognise that we have been through very difficult political times but I think they recognise that the principles this current government has been operating under is something which is in line with their belief in democracy.”