A reader sends us a translation of an interview with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra by the French newspaper “Le Figaro,” done few days before her trip to France. Here is the reader’s translation of parts of the interview:
LE FIGARO – For your first official visit to Europe, you will go to France from July 19 to 21: what is the purpose of this trip?
YINGLUCK – France is an important partner of Thailand. We will discuss bilateral trade. And I’m like all Thais, I like to go to Paris.
The ultra-royalists and their Democrat Party allies will enjoy this for what Yingluck says is an impossibility. Most Thais can never contemplate travel to Paris. A bit dumb giving them the ammunition, and reflective of a lack of understanding of her political constituency (if she is interested in electors). It’s the kind of elitist statement expected on the Eton-Oxford lads like Abhisit Vejjajiva.
There’s a whiff of the business interest in her in the next reply, although we agree that increasing the minimum wage was a good move. Hopefully the government can now think beyond this to issues of industrial restructuring, upgrading and skills development.
LE FIGARO – What did bring you the most satisfaction?
YINGLUCK – I like concrete things: reducing the corporate tax rate from 30 to 23% this year and the 40% increase of the minimum wage to 300 baht per day.
Then to the obvious question:
LE FIGARO – You are sometimes described as a puppet of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Are you influenced by your brother?
YINGLUCK – I cannot answer no, because we are both part of the same family. But I can take my own decisions. I will prove myself. I take the decisions and I do apply them with an adaptation to the circumstances. And, as women often do, I watch the details.
LE FIGARO – His coming back [to Thailand] is a big topic. When will he return?
YINGLUCK – I do not know. I cannot tell you.
PPT thinks she handled that reasonably well. Then the interview gets to some of the political issues that relate to the conflict that seems to revolve around Thaksin, elections and so on:
LE FIGARO – For seven years, the country is divided between the “yellow shirts” monarchists and the “red shirts”, peasants and workers nostalgic of the former Prime Minister Thaksin. Is there any progress in the reconciliation process?
YINGLUCK – We follow the recommendations of the Truth for Reconciliation Commission. We started the financial compensation for the victims of the political violence, which includes the “yellow shirts”, the “red shirts” and the soldiers. This will reduce tensions and we will talk to find a way out.
Again, as we’ve said several times, compensation is warranted, but it is only one part of reconciliation that has to involve truth and punishment as well as an end to state impunity.
LE FIGARO – The army is a major player in Thai politics. Do you fear a new military coup?
YINGLUCK – The past has shown that coups are leading the country nowhere. It is to prevent another coup that we have this policy of national reconciliation.
We don’t agree that coups lead nowhere. In fact, recent coups lead to the palace’s door and its involvement in establishing royalist regimes. Finally, the question of lese majeste comes up:
LE FIGARO – In Thailand, the lèse-majesté law is one of the most repressive in the world: 33 people charged in 2005, over 400 in 2011. Should it be amended?
YINGLUCK – The problem is not the law, but its misuse. We must ensure that it will no longer be used for political purposes.
This answer is not that different from the response heard from ultra-royalists from Abhisit to Tul Sitthisomwong. The problem is not the misuse of the law. The problem is that the law is a feudal remnant that the palace wants in place to protect its vast wealth and political influence.