Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai denounced a media columnist’s idea to deny junta-run Thailand the Asean rotating chairmanship, saying the article was senseless.
“The author misunderstood and wrote the article to attack Thai leader [Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha] without considering the reality,” Don told reporters in Singapore, where he attended the annual Asean ministerial meeting.
Thailand is scheduled to take up the chairmanship of the regional grouping next year. The Jakarta Post columnist, Kornelius Purpa, wrote an article last week calling on Asean to deny Thai junta chief Prayut the chance to chair the grouping.
“The Thai junta does not deserve the position amid strong waves of democratisation in this region,” the article says.
“We just witnessed how Malaysians responded to a corrupt leader. Myanmar is also undergoing a major transformation of democracy, although de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has not been able to fully control the country. The Philippines and Indonesia belong to a club of democratic nations despite domestic problems,” according to the columnist.
Don said being the chairman of Asean is not a personal matter, but one involving the country. Thailand as a country has to take the position in national and regional interest.
Thailand under the leadership of Prime Minister Prayut over the past four years has contributed and pushed forward many Asean projects and tasks, he said.
Prayut took power after staging a coup to topple the elected civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014.
While the international community strongly criticised the Thai junta for suppression of democracy and human rights, Don said the government provided good cooperation to the international community to solve many problems such as human trafficking and illegal fishery.
Thailand plans to have an election next year and Don said he expected the elected government would carry on the tasks initiated by his government.
While the idea to force Thailand to skip the Asean chairmanship was not discussed in the Asean meeting here over the past week, the article was widely talked about at home, notably among dissident groups.
Prayut on Saturday called on Thais to not use the issue of Asean chairmanship to cause further rifts in the country, Government Spokesman Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said.
Sansern quoted Prayut as saying that the Asean chairmanship is a matter for the entire country and all Thais, and does not belong to a specific person.
Asean forced Myanmar to forgo its 2006 chairmanship in order to push reforms for democratisation in the then-military-ruled country. Myanmar was given the chairmanship in 2014 when the country was run by Thein Sein after the 2010 election.