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APPG for Thailand delegation visit

Roger Godsiff MP as Chair of the Thailand APPG led a delegation of UK parliamentarians including, Graham Brady MP and David Amess comprising a delegation on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Thailand visited Bangkok at the invitation of the Thai Government from 10-15 November 2014.  This was the APPG’s first trip to Thailand since its inception and took place against the backdrop of the military coup in Thailand in May 2014 and the political and economic uncertainty resulting from it.

The APPG noted that political and administrative power is now concentrated in the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The NCPO is revising the Thai constitution. There remains some risk that political developments may lead to instability, particularly so as the activities of opposition parties have been seriously curtailed and political meetings to all intents and purposes have been banned.

The group had an intense programme of meetings with representatives from various government departments and met with a number of high ranking politicians and senior civil servants involved in the process of government since the military take-over and those from opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party and Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Democratic Party.

Members of the administration were at pains to offer reassurance at many of these meetings that the military coup had been necessary to reduce political instability and widespread loss of life and that work was underway on the creation of a new democratic constitution. The clear intention over the coming months was to confront corruption, reduce political influence over the media and restore democracy with functioning political parties although it was not yet clear how this would be achieved and whether or not the final result would be a return to any pre-coup arrangements. The members of the group were keen to discuss the road back to democratic government and the ways in which it might be made more durable.

The group found the meeting with Abhisit Vejjajiva, current leader of the Democratic Party and former Pheu Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaiseng particularly interesting as both had been invited to make contributions to the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) hearings on the shape and form of the new constitution. Both politicians wanted the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to relax restrictions on political parties so that idea-gathering sessions could take place.

Group chairman, Roger Godsiff MP, pointed out on a number of occasions that any political system, whatever the revisions to the constitution were, could only successfully function if the parties accepted the results of an election and did not see this as an occasion to promote civil unrest if the result was not the one liked nor expected.

Group meetings took place with Deputy PM / Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the National Reform Council, President of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and Foreign Affairs Committee of the NLA. The group also received a briefing from the Director of the Thailand International Cooperation on Thailand’s contribution to overseas development.

At a meeting with the Thai private sectors the group received a short presentation by the Ministry of Finance about the current state of the Thai economy open and an interactive session then followed with representatives from Thai Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Thai Industries, Thai Bankers Association, and Federation of Thai Capital Market Organization.

The Ministry of Finance presentation highlighted the negative impact on confidence and growth that the military coup had had on the Thai economy in general and how world market prices had adversely effected exports of primary produce such as rice.

At a dinner hosted by HE Mark Kent, British Ambassador to Thailand, the group met with a number of representatives of UK companies with trading links to Thailand and the British Chamber of Commerce in Thailand. At meetings with government officials and the group which HE Mark Kent, British Ambassador attended he raised his concerns regarding reports of changes to the Foreign Business Act which would see the degree of foreign ownership in joint ventures reduced.

Toward the end of the week the group travelled to Hua Hin where it visited the Huai Sai Royal Development Study Centre to see first-hand the work sponsored by the King of Thailand to promote agricultural productivity.

Roger Godsiff MP