NEW YORK, April 21, 2009 – Despite weeks of often violent protests, the government of Thailand remains committed to democracy and human rights, said Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya.
"The most important issue is how to bring about political reform,” said Kasit. “We would like to have an open political system, a democratic one, a transparent one and an accountable one."
Speaking at Asia Society headquarters, Kasit said he was "confident" Thailand would overcome the civil unrest that has paralyzed the Southeast Asian country. He also spoke personally about having to move between "two or three safe houses" amidst the violence.
Kasit said his government was consulting Asian leaders on a new date for the summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has been cancelled twice due to the political turmoil and massive protests. The summit includes the 10 member nations of ASEAN plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
He said the summit may be held in June in Phuket but stressed the importance of first resolving the current crisis.
"We can not have an ASEAN summit without a political settlement," said Kasit. "There is no point in pretending things are normal. Let’s settle this political issue first."
As for why ASEAN matters, Kasit said "with over 600 million people, and an urban market, [there is] lots of economic potential."
Speaking in conversation with Asia Society’s Executive Vice President Jamie Metzl, the Foreign Minister also spoke about Thailand’s current economic policy in the face of the global financial crisis.
Reaffirming the Thai government’s commitment to working with foreign investors, he explained, "we will maintain Thailand as an open market economy, friendly to the international community."
In terms of specifics, Kasit said his government would continue to protect intellectual property rights, avoid protectionism, keep the Foreign Business Act in place, and set up "one-stop service" in Bangkok to make Thailand more conducive to the needs of the global business community.