Thai junta seeks Japan’s support to restore democracy

Kyodo

Thailand’s acting foreign minister said Thursday that last May’s military coup was undertaken as a “last resort” to avoid bloodshed, while he sought understanding and support from Japan and other countries that have frowned on the army’s seizure of power from a democratically elected government.

Sihasak Puangketkaew, permanent secretary of the Foreign Ministry, told Kyodo News that without military intervention, the political and security situation in the kingdom was likely to become more chaotic and unstable.

“That’s why we had what happened on May 22,” he said.

“We understand why our Western and Japanese friends have to take the position that they took,” Sihasak said, alluding partly to Japan’s having criticized the coup as “deeply regrettable” and its having strongly urged the junta to quickly restore democracy.

“At the same time, we hope they gain more understanding why we had to do this,” he said, adding, “Now it’s not the time for friends to turn their backs, but time to engage, support and encourage us to move forward in the right direction to democracy.”

The top diplomat, who plans to visit Tokyo to that end, said that whatever disappointments Japan may have with what happened in Thailand, it can hardly disengage with the kingdom as it has very strong and permanent interests here.

Sihasak said he has noticed that from the perspective of members of the Japanese business community, they appreciate Thailand’s stability and predictability because they can do business.

“We think Japan is a friend who should understand the situation and should appreciate common interests that two countries share, the long-term interests that Japan has in the stability and prosperity of Thailand.”

He said that in the eyes of those who do not understand Thai politics, there has been an erosion of democracy, but in the eyes of most Thais, what happened was needed to save democracy, which was going downhill as confrontation and polarization increased.

In any case, he said, Thailand now has to look ahead as it cannot undo what had happened.

“We need time and space to strengthen our democracy to put in place a fundamental foundation of robust democracy. We hope to achieve this in our three-step roadmap,” he said.

The diplomat was referring to a three-stage roadmap announced by the junta on May 30. The first stage will see Thailand run under special law; the second will see the drafting of a new charter, a reform council and a legislative council; and the third will see the country geared toward full democracy with an election.