Sunday, November 20, 2011

Q&A with PM Yingluck

Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday evening gave an interview with a number of Indonesian newspapers at the end of the first day of the 19th Asean Summit in Bali covering a wide range of issues including the Thai government’s response to the floods, Asean, Thai-Indonesia bilateral relations, the amnesty decree and taking advice from her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Below is the question and answer session she gave to the Jakarta Globe, Tempo, Kompas, the Jakarta Post and Strategic Review:

Question: How is the handling of the floods so far?

Answer: The first thing that we’d like to tell is that the precipitation in Thailand. This is the initial disaster that is never happened in Thailand history. And in some of the provinces the water is already reduced and the water is contained. So now we move on to the stage of rehabilitation. For the rehabilitation we have plan. Each province has to conduct the recovery within 45 days, including the industry area. We have the three phases that we called three Rs.
The first is rescues, which is the rescue of the victim and help them with the health care and other humanitarian acts.
Second phase is restore, which means we have to recover back to normal situation… This is the plan to help people in term of housing and also to help private sector, the small and medium enterprises and the large enterprises.

And the last one would be rebuilt. It means that after we settle and bring them back to normal situation,  we plan to protect for the future and we would like to turn this situation to an opportunity to redesign the whole water management system. We have established a committee to redesign this, and we have another committee to work on future economic strategy for to make sure that Thailand would recover and the economy would be moving forward.

From the budget this year, we plan an investment of US$ 12 billion, $8 billion out of that we plan to allocate to help industry, the SME and the small companies. So make sure all the business can recover and start up again. We also would make sure that the infrastructure to be built again.

Question: How do you think Asean can help mitigate such disaster?

Answer: Today, the Asean raised issue about this natural disaster. We tried to lead the Asean family to come by together to come up with cooperation for natural disaster. So we can help each other, because every country has to deal with some kind of severe implication of the climate change. We use this opportunity to strengthen the Asean coordination of natural disaster mitigation. We want to make sure that Asean has the disaster plan and we have to protect our people from the disaster together. This time several Asean members have the same problem like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Even today I talk to the President of Indonesia, and he said that Indonesia has this kind of problem as well. So this will be the common that every countries in Asean interested in this topic. So we hope we can decide to work together on a framework of

Question: Many have said that this flood is the first real test of your leadership, can you comment on that?

Answer: When we first took our office the precipitation of the typhoon also came. This disaster is very critical and never happened before for us and for the government. The government tries to handle and manage. I think we already have the right policy in place such as redesign water management system. I think we have thought ahead already.

Question: About bilateral Thailand-Indonesia. Export rice to Indonesia, why is it cancelled?

Answer: I think that commitment of export rice is made in the last government. Anyway we already signed the MoU between Thailand and Indonesia yesterday to supply the rice. So Indonesia will purchase the rice from Thailand one million tonne per year, starting next year. Basically food security is one of the things discussed in Asean. Even in the flood condition, we still could supply rice to Indonesia. The flood did not affect the production of rice. The flood only affects 20 percent of our rice production. People can have an early harvest arrive. And the next crop is November when the water already gone.

Question: What is your comment on the bilateral trade between Thailand and Indonesia and the Thai’s investment in Indonesia?

Answer: From the relation Thailand and Indonesia, several areas to work together are fisheries, halal food, and also investment. Investment can come in both way, because Thailand interested to invest in Indonesia and we invite Indonesia to invest also in Thailand. Right now we work together very closely to find the strategic way for two countries so in the future we can have more initiative project together.

Question: Are you going to stick to your campaign promises?

Answer: First thing that the government campaigned is to increase the domestic consumption. So even our condition is critical, we have to launch this campaign to make sure the domestic consumption increased. So we’re looking forward to implement the policy after the water, after the flood has been decreased. For example some of the policy of the minimum wage. We supposed to launch on the 1st of January 2012.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra makes her Asean debut with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. (Photo Reuters)
That we agree on the increase of the minimum wage. But we delayed to help the industry, so that (it will be implemented) in April. The money that will be increased to the lower income, that will generate higher income, so they can have more money to spend. The more money to spend, the number or the volume of the consumption will be higher. That finally will bring back the foreign investors.

Another policy is investments on infrastructure. One of the infrastructures is the Water Management System. This is (already) in the plan. And other will be invested on the infrastructure of the transportation. That would be the best way to recover and the future. This is the concept of the campaign. About laptop, I think when you see the laptop, the amount of money is not much. But it is important for the kids to learn about technology in the future. So when compared to the amount of money, very little to plan on the future of the youth. So we will go ahead and launch this campaign.

Question: What is the importance of ASEAN?  The role of ASEAN to Thailand?

Answer: I think first is on the collaboration on the natural disasters. Because improve only in Thailand alone will not help. We need to link with other neighborhoods, especially in ASEAN. And another importance of ASEAN is right now if we combine all of ASEAN, I think it’s a huge number, and ASEAN is a group of country that growing very fast. So if we combine and strengthen and connect all the ASEAN together, it will be very benefit to our ASEAN and of course there will be impact on Thailand and other members because this economic situation and stability of US and Europe, if we can strengthen the relationship, strengthen the economic together. This is one of the pillars of the summit.

Question: What about the politics of Burma?

Answer: For Burma, one of ASEAN focus is the political security and from my visit to Burma, we see a lot of development. As the stand point of Thailand, we support Burma as the chairman of ASEAN, and including the support for the development of Burma.

Question: Can you comment on the amnesty decree in Thailand?

Answer: The amnesty case will be under the reconciliation [commission] as it will also follow the rule of law. We have the Truth for Reconciliation Commission of Thailand. The commission will be on this, so I would not involve in this.

Question: Does it mean that they will give amnesty to your brother?

Answer: I don’t know. It depends on the TRCT. But it has to apply for all, so they won’t do specially for anyone. It is not up to me. The third party has to decide. It has to apply to anyone and all process has to follow the rule of law.

Question: Do you still take advice from your brother?

Answer: As a brother and sister, yes. I just call him and make sure that he’s OK. But it’s not very often because like today I would be very busy with the work.

Question: Does he still give you advice on how to do your job as prime minister?

Answer: No, it’s depend on… some time as long as any advice is good for the country I will do it. But that does not mean that I have to consult him and not being the leader.
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