PM ‘ready for democracy questions’

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, seen here with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, said Gen Prayut is fully prepared to answer any possible questions about democracy. (File photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was prepared ahead of Monday’s meeting with President Donald Trump to answer any questions or objections to his regime’s stance on democracy and elections.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai said the purpose of the White House meeting is to reflect the friendship and strong bonds between Thailand and the United States.

The two leaders met one-on-one, and then headed full teams from both countries to discuss security, economics, trade and investment as well as the strategic partnership between the two countries, Mr Don said.

A working lunch was held after the meetings, he said.

Mr Don said he was not worried if Mr Trump asked Gen Prayut about Thailand’s political situation, saying it is improving and the general election is in sight.

Thailand has been under a military government since the May 22, 2014 coup. Gen Prayut’s trip was based on the US president’s invitation on April 30.

Mr Don claimed Thai people are satisfied with the political situation and other countries also accept it and have taken a friendly position towards the kingdom.

“If we are not really good, they would not have invited us. Unless we have positive development, they would not have tried to increase trade. It is clearly a friendly stance,” said Mr Don, who accompanied Gen Prayut during the trip.

“The prime minister is also introducing Thai business people to American investors to increase trade investment. This trip, therefore, completely covers three main areas: security, trade and the economy as well as regional cooperation,” the minister of foreign affairs said.

Mr Don also said that on Tuesday, a Thai company will sign an MoU on buying 50,000-60,000 tonnes of coal from the US.

“There will be a contract signing to buy coal from the US, which will be for the first time. In the past we imported from neighbouring countries, but when comparing the quality and the [cost of] transportation, it is worth it. This is also supporting the US leader’s policy to increase domestic employment,” Mr Don said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks said the MoU regarding entering into a longer-term coal and petrochemical by-products purchase agreement is between SCG and Smoky Mountain Coal.

Mr Trump in early April announced his intention to fix trade deficits with 16 countries including Thailand.

Bilateral trade stood at US$40 billion (about 1.3 trillion baht) last year with the kingdom recording a $19-billion surplus.

Meanwhile, under Mr Trump’s administration, which began in January, US coal exports have been surging.

Joining Gen Prayut on his trip are 25 business people from the agriculture, food and food processing; banking and finances; properties; petrochemical and automobile industries.

Representatives from SCG, CP Group, PTT and Banpu presented a briefing on investment in the US as well as an investment plan for the next five years to the premier.

The US Chamber of Commerce and US-Asean Business Council will also host a dinner for the prime minister.

Thailand is the US’s oldest ally in the region.

The two countries are marking 184 years since they established diplomatic relations this year.

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