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Interview with Singapore PM

'Outsiders' can't help Thailand solve political crisis : Lee

ONLY THAIS - the government and society in general - can solve the political crisis that has hobbled the Kingdom's economic and domestic affairs since October, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says.

In a roundtable discussion on Tuesday with editors from the Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 media groups in the region, Lee discussed a wide range of issues including Thailand's political crisis.

"We are concerned about it because Thailand is a very important member of Asean, and if Thailand is preoccupied with domestic difficulties, then you will not be able to contribute your full weight to the Asean endeavour," the prime minister said in reply to a question posed by Nation Multimedia Group chairman Suthichai Yoon.

"We see this as a very difficult problem that Thai people and society will have to solve. It's not easy to do, it's a very deep problem. I don't think there's anything that outsiders will be able to contribute to that, even well-meaning outsiders within Asean. I don't think we outside of the country have either the authority or the knowledge or the influence, and certainly not the power [to interfere]."

Lee added that the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the opposition People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) should sit down and discuss solutions "to find [a] basis on which to work [that] is viable over the longer term and where you are one society and one country".

The PDRC, whose leaders have been accused of sedition, wants Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra - the younger sister of ousted fugitive ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra - to step down.

Lee also drew comparisons between Thailand and Singapore, noting that the former has more benefits in building a stronger nation because it is the "most natural nation in Southeast Asia".

"Natural in the sense that you have one race, one religion, one language, one history over quite a long period of time. Singapore has a very short history compared [with] Thailand. We are a very artificial country compared with Thailand because we are multiracial, we have many religions, our history was as a colony and not as a country. So to build a nation out of these conditions is very hard, but to build a nation out of what Thailand has, you already have most of the pieces.

"But evidently there are difficulties that are not easy to overcome, and we wish you all the best."

He said a "prosperous Thailand is beneficial to Asean", adding that if the country did not have these political upheavals, it would have more significant contributions to the regional grouping.

Lee also said there was no way for Asean to interfere in Thailand's domestic affairs, emphasising that the grouping has been successful "because we have not interfered in one another's domestic affairs".

The one-hour roundtable meeting with Lee was held at the Istana, the official residence of the president of Singapore, where the president and prime minister officially receive their guests. The prime minister discussed a wide range of regional issues from the elections in Indonesia and India to territorial disputes and trade relations with Asian countries, among others.

The meeting with Lee was held alongside the annual board meeting of ANN, which was hosted this year by The Straits Times newspaper with the support of Germany's Konrad Adenauer Foundation.




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