Friday, January 19, 2007

The Nation Jumps The Shark

Get over the 'Thaksin factor'

Thailand and Singapore must work to put the diplomatic spat behind them and focus on their bilateral ties

Thailand and Singapore, countries that had enjoyed excellent relations both bilateral and within Asean until Monday, must not be held hostage by deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra's devious manoeuvring. The way both countries have responded and retaliated in the ongoing diplomatic spat is a bit preposterous and will make matters worse. At this time, each side has an axe to grind with the other. Singapore has an albatross around its neck over the problematic Shin-Temasek deal which is pending in a Thai court, and Thailand is being run by an interim government that is struggling to consolidate its power and win international acceptance.

It is imperative that both sides take time to cool off and reflect on the overall positive nature of their bilateral relations, which have been the strongest among Asean members. It is interesting to note that the Foreign Ministry's initial verbal warnings to Singapore of the dire consequences of Thaksin's visit were not taken seriously. The "personal" meeting between Thaksin and Singapore's deputy prime minister S Jayakumar was a most glaring show of insensitivity.

Adding insult to injury, Thaksin's interviews with CNN and the Asian Wall Street Journal appeared to amplify Singapore's insensitivity to Thailand's concerns. Of course we respect freedom of the press and nothing was wrong with the broadcasting and publication of Thaksin's views, however his interviews were considered very damaging by the Surayud government, as the deposed premier took the opportunity to criticise and ridicule the government's economic management.

It is quite surprising that Singapore, which had pledged to be a good neighbour, would fail to anticipate how all of these events could affect relations between the two countries.Singaporean diplomats responded predictably that Thailand has never notified them of the nature of the offences that Thaksin has committed. This is so obvious that it would have been like asking in which direction the sun rises in the morning. Singapore should have known the political situation in Thailand and Thaksin's status better than any country. The island nation's diplomats and intelligence community have virtually unlimited access to Thai officials and records.

Lets play find the duplicitous statements in this editorial.

On one hand, The Nation says that both parties need to take responsibility. Yet The Nation puts most of the blame of Singapore, as if Singapore is responsible for the disaster that is called Thai politics.

Just because Thailand is a disaster and a basket case in every way, Singapore shouldn't be covering Thailand ass, especially after Thailand has been attacking Singapore politically, economically and diplomatically.

The government did not protest Thaksin's visits to China, Hong Kong and Indonesia because the authorities in those countries had the good sense not to grant him access to their senior government officials. It is unfortunate that Singapore allowed itself to be used as Thaksin's propaganda tool. Indeed, this plays into Thaksin's hands; as a billionaire and former PM he has the capacity to continually damage the Thai government's reputation overseas, single-handedly. Thaksin can easily pit a government in the West against an unelected government.

Again, the Thais act like children and expect everybody to kow tow to their whims. Yes, what Singapore did was insensitive, but the mess that Thailand created with Thaksin and the coup is owned completely by the Thais. It is Thailand's fault for not having its political act together.

Indeed, several European countries continue to treat Thaksin with respect and hospitality. After all, he was an elected leader - never mind the fact that he was corrupt, divisive, and anti-democratic. More importantly, he was the leader who offered them potentially lucrative "mega projects" related to the Kingdom's infrastructure development.

I love how The Nation blames Thailand's politics and its various forms of dictatorships on foreigners. Thaksin is a "made in Thailand" Frankenstein monster. By the way, The Nation should look at Suvarnaphumi Airport as a product of a Thai made infrastructure product.

It is sad that the Thai-Singapore friendship has come to this. Singapore is an important participant in the Thai economy. The two countries need to come back to their senses and begin mending fences without further delay. Both must demonstrate a willingness to overcome and put the Thaksin factor in bilateral ties behind them, and concentrate on building a sound, long-term relationship based on common interests and mutual respect.

How can bilateral relations be put on track when The Nation editorial board thinks all of Thailand's problems are the fault of foreigners and how they deal with Thailand's corrupt politicians?

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