Official Defends PM Yingluck's Frequent Foreign Trips

(26 September) Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the frequent trips Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has made to foreign nations in the past few months, saying it is a necessary step to improve Thailand′s standing in the world community.

Ms Yingluck′s trips abroad have become a source of discontent for anti-government critics, who argue that Ms. Yingluck appears to be more intent on enjoying her time in foreign countries than governing at home.

However, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Mr. Wichawat Issarapakdee, says the trips have been planned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the interest of the nation in mind.

He denied a report published by a media agency which claim that all the foreign trips were arranged by the Prime Minister′s Office. According to Mr. Wichawat, it was the Ministry that drafted the itinerary and later consulted with the Prime Minister′s Office.

"The Ministry has never delegated the decision to the Prime Minister′s Office," Mr. Wichawat said.

He explained that Ms. Yingluck′s trips are categorised into 3 parts: the nations in South East Asian region which are regarded by the Ministry as priority destinations; the nations with strategic importance with Thailand such as China, Japan, and South Korea; and the nations with strong ties to Thailand in term of investment, trade, and tourism.

The last category belongs to nations like Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, said Mr. Wichawat.

The official told our correspondent the Prime Minister also visited African nations in her recent trips because they are potential resource nodes and emerging markets which could benefit Thailand in the future.

Furthermore, Ms. Yingluck has attended a number of international forums in recent months, namely the Fifth Bali Democracy Forum, "so that Thailand could present its stance in the international community, and it also presented an opportunity for [Ms. Yingluck] to meet many foreign leaders for bilateral dialogues," according to Mr. Wichawat.

Asked whether Ms. Yingluck has made more foreign trips than previous leaders, Mr. Wichawat suggested it is the case, but insisted that the frequency of the trips denotes a confidence of many foreign governments toward Thailand.

He added, "At the same time, the Prime Minister has appropriately arranged her time in managing domestic issues".