>Chavalit Yongchaiyudh: Thailand was once second to none … but we have slipped

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Chavalit: Three urgent matters

Thursday September 25, 2008
Bangkok Post

Former prime minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh has been appointed deputy prime minister in the Somchai Wongsawat cabinet, tasked with three urgent matters: reconciling with the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), settling the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, and tackling southern unrest.

Gen Chavalit spoke to Bangkok Post reporter AMORNRAT MAHITTHIROOK.

Why have you accepted the post of deputy prime minister, when you used to lead the government?

I want to work for the country; even one day of my time is worth it. In the past, Thailand was second to none [in the region]. No countries could compete against us. Why did our leaders let the country slide backwards? Now, we can compete with only Cambodia and Burma. How could we dare to face up to our ancestors?

How long will the government stay in office?

It depends on our achievements. If the government performs well and works for the public, it can stay longer and continue its work.

As a senior political figure, how will you work? Will members of the government listen to you?

I don’t care whether others listen to me or not. The main issue is whether we can solve the country’s problems or not. I believe the disputes which occurred are urgent issues. If we can identify the the root causes, we can begin tackling the disputes at their origins.

What will you do about the PAD?

The problem occurred as state agencies neglected to address [the PAD’s concerns]. But the new government is determined to solve the problem. We must tackle the problem as quickly as possible, through compromise and peaceful approaches. The most important principle is fair government, ruled by people and for the people. The government is determined to solve the problem in its tenure.

Have you consulted the prime minister about how you will solve the PAD problem?

We have not discussed it in detail. But my approach should be the same as that of the prime minister, particularly in our efforts to understand the PAD’s intentions, in a bid to find a resolution.

What do think about the PAD’s ‘new politics’ proposal?

It is a new political system that will overcome political problems. Several groups of people have tried to push for it. It’s a version of people’s politics in which the country is ruled by the people and for the people.

How will political problems be solved?

What I’ve talked about is the principle. But at the heart of this principle is the democratic system. There are many types of democratic rule, but two types in particular are popular. One is the Washington Consensus – a ruling system by the people and for the people. The other is the Beijing Consensus – a ruling system for the people but not by the people. It’s the communist system. But both share the same goal – the benefit of the public.

What are your guidelines on negotiating with the PAD?

The main objective is to understand each other’s intentions. We must show that we attach importance to the alliance’s problem.

What are your policies to solve southern unrest?

A paper to solve the unrest has been prepared and I am ready to turn it into action.

How will you go about tackling the border dispute with Cambodia?

There is no problem, as I have close ties with Gen Tea Banh [Cambodia’s defence minister]. We have known each other a long time. But I need to look into the dispute in detail before I go about devising a strategy.

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