Thaksin visits Singapore saga

Singapore regrets Thai diplomatic retaliation for Thaksin visit
Kyodo news

Singapore has expressed regret over Thailand’s diplomatic retaliation for a recent visit to the city-state by ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and urged Bangkok to respect its sovereignty.

“It was purely a social and private meeting,” Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday in a statement, alluding to Thaksin’s unofficial meeting last week in Singapore with Singapore Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar.

“No official calls or meetings were arranged,” the statement said. “We are therefore saddened that the Thai government has chosen to take this course of action. We hope Thailand will respect Singapore’s position as that of a sovereign country.”

Infuriated by Thaksin’s meeting with a top Singapore government official, Thailand on Tuesday suspended a bilateral civil service exchange program and retracted an invitation to Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo to visit Bangkok in the coming weeks.

Singapore pointed out that Thailand had not notified it ahead of Thaksin’s visit of any restrictions placed on where he could travel to, nor had he been charged with any offence.

It said Thaksin chose to visit Singapore on his own and he had asked to meet Jayakumar, “who is an old friend.”

His visit to Singapore and his meeting with Jayakumar came shortly after the interim Thai government revoked his diplomatic passport.

“Thai nationals do not require visas to visit Singapore. There is no reason for Singapore to turn Dr. Thaksin away,” the ministry said, noting that Thaksin had visited other countries prior to coming to Singapore “without any protest by the Thai government.”

Thaksin was abroad on Sept. 19 when military leaders toppled his elected government, accusing him of treason, cronyism and corruption. He has since traveled to Britain, Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia and Singapore.

Thailand was also angered by media interviews that Thaksin gave while he was in Singapore, including one in which he told the Wall Street Journal that new policies announced by the military-installed government that replaced him are undermining confidence in the Thai economy. The Nation, a Thai newspaper, on Wednesday quoted an informed Thai government source as saying the diplomatic retaliation could also affect the planned summit later this year in Singapore between the leaders of the two countries if the situation does not improve.

“We value the longstanding friendly relations with Thailand,” Singapore’s statement said.

Thai junta warns Singapore against meeting with Thaksin

Thomas Fuller
International Herald Tribunal

Shattering the unity displayed last weekend at a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, Thailand’s military-installed government issued a rare and sharp rebuke to Singapore on Tuesday over a recent meeting between Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand’s exiled former prime minister, and a top Singaporean official.

Breaking with a longstanding custom of playing down public disagreements with its neighbors, the Thai Foreign Ministry summoned the Singaporean ambassador and announced that it was rescinding an invitation to Singapore’s foreign minister, George Yeo, to visit Thailand this month.

“That invitation has been retracted,” said Kitti Wasinond, the spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Ministry officials who met with the Singaporean ambassador, Peter Chan, told him that the Thai government disapproved of a meeting that Thaksin held with Singapore’s deputy prime minister, S. Jayakumar.

The meeting adversely affected “trust and understanding between the two countries,” the Thai Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday.

The Singaporean Foreign Ministry said later that Thaksin had been in Singapore on a private visit.

Thailand’s ruling generals have sought to circumscribe Thaksin’s overseas movements since removing him in the Sept. 19 coup. Thaksin, who still enjoys some support within Thailand, has visited Beijing, Indonesia and Singapore since losing power. Last week, the Thai government announced that it had revoked Thaksin’s diplomatic passport.

“Singapore should be more cautious about allowing such movements, since we have already revoked Thaksin’s diplomatic passport,” Thailand’s military- appointed prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, said Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Thai officials told Chan, the ambassador, that the meeting with Thaksin “should not have taken place,” said Kitti, the spokesman.

After considering relations with Singapore, “we made the overall review and we decided to suspend cooperation” on a civil service exchange program, Kitti said. The move, although largely symbolic, is a significant deterioration in relations between the two countries, which have been embroiled in a dispute over the takeover of Thailand’s largest telecommunications company, Shin, by the investment arm of the Singapore government, Temasek, in January 2006.

Thaksin’s family sold the company to Temasek under a cloud of controversy. The Thai government says the transaction was carried out illegally, using nominees to skirt foreign ownership laws, which Temasek denies. Many Thais were also angered that the sale was not taxed.

The dispute between Thailand and Singapore comes just two days after leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in the Philippines, reaching landmark agreements on fighting terrorism and the establishment of a free trade area.

Thai-Singapore ties on the Brink: Thailand cancels invitation to Singapore’s foreign minister
The Nation

Singapore government should be more cautious about allowing visit of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to Singapore since Thailand have already revoked his diplomatic passport, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Tuesday.

Surayud was speaking after Thai government rescinded the visit of Singapore’s foreign minister later this month after ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s meeting with Singapore Deputy Prime Minister.

The government also announced it was suspending a civil service exchange program with Singapore and canceled a meeting about the program that was to be held later this month.

Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said, “The main reason behind our measures was because Singaporean President S.R. Nathan has told PM Suryud on November 9, 2006, that Singapore will not betrayed (Thailand) and will not do anything to damage the trust and understanding between the two countries.”

Earlier Thai Foreign Ministry summoned Singapore ambassador on Monday to express deep concerns on Thaksin’s visit to Singapore.

“We expressed dissatisfaction with the explanation made by Singaporean authorities. Therefore we decide to cancel visit of Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo to Bangkok later this month,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinondh said.

An informed source said Singapore issued a private invitation for Thaksin to stay in the island nation for three days. Thaksin met Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar during the visit over the weekend.

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