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Thai PM on healing a divided nation
Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks with Newsline's Jim Middleton during her visit to Australia.

It's just year since Thailand's prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was elected to lead a politically divided country.

She's spent much of her time trying to heal old wounds, and denying claims she's a puppet of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The prime minister has just visited Australia with more than 50 Thai executives, trying to convince Australia's business elite that Thailand is a safe and profitable place to invest.

I spoke with Yingluck Shinawatra at the conclusion of her visit.
JIM MIDDLETON: Prime minister, good to be talking to you again.

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA, THAI PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, nice to talk to you again.

JIM MIDDLETON: When we spoke before the election, reconciliation was a priority for you if you were to become prime minister. How difficult has it been to make sure that the divisions in Thai society do not return; that the protesters do not go back to the streets?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: Our Government has been endorsed of the TRCT - that is the Truth and Reconciliation of the Commission that has been set up by last government. So we endorsed for this committee to continue to find a way out for the country, to move forward about the reconciliation.

And last week government just has been approved for the compensation package to the people who have to get the impact from the political situation, for all the victim. So we give them the compensation because we believe that, if we help them to release their own suffering, so they will be released and they can willing to talk and to find a way out for the country.

JIM MIDDLETON: Is it something of a tribute to your opponents that they have allowed you to govern without any problems, that they haven't encouraged their protesters to go back to the streets?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: Because of the election is came with the peaceful way and in the democratic way. So that's why people accept because we accept the word of the voice of the people. So that is why election is come very peaceful and then the development has been started with the reconciliation. So that's why.

JIM MIDDLETON: You mentioned compensation is being paid to people who suffered as a consequence of all the division. What about the question of the charges against people for taking part in some of the protests? I know there was a great deal of concern that Yellow Shirt protestors, for example, that no charges were laid against them whereas Red Shirt protestors, charges were brought very early and they were convicted. Has that now all been sorted out to everyone's satisfaction? Have all those court cases and so on been dealt with?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: The court case will still be in the ongoing. But I think the key thing is because of - I think we won't create the conflict. So we will try our best to clear all the conflict. So that is why I think the package of the compensation that we helping them both of the Yellow Shirt, Red Shirt and all the officer has been resolved by the compensation.

And I think it's not only the political alone. So we have to go back to solve with the economics also because the root part of the problem with Thailand is the gap of the higher income and lower income is very high. So, first thing that the government has to be reduced the gap by enhancing the policy of the domestic income on the household income. So this is another key thing that we have to do.

JIM MIDDLETON: The reason I asked ask that is I'm wondering whether you agree with what your brother, the former prime minister, has said about this, that people in Thailand need to set aside their anger and frustration over social and legal injustices for the sake of national reconciliation. Do you agree with that?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: People have to think ahead. And I think we have to take our - set aside the personal conflict or personal mindset and then people will have to think about how we can move forward. That is the key thing that I will point out. And if we said that the reconciliation must be some of the common interest for whole - the majority of the country.

JIM MIDDLETON: What about those Red Shirt supporters then who say that Thaksin is being selfish when he says - makes statement of that kind, that is he is just trying to make it easier for him to return to Thailand?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: I wouldn't get these comments because he is my brother. But we respect whatever people say.

But I think even if you ask everyone, everyone love Thailand. I think noone deny that they would love Thailand. But if he asked for doing keep away some something or leave something out on the path, just for the country, I believe that people will say that, so my brother also would like to say that.

JIM MIDDLETON: Your brother would obviously love to come back to Thailand. But do you worry that if he were to return it would open up the divisions which you are now trying to heal once more?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: OK, first thing I have to say that in the principle, he a Thai so he love Thailand. Of course, people who have been away from his country so he would like to come back. That is normal to everyone.

But for him to come back, not me, because I have to do the job for whole country so it is not a job to do just only for himself. So I can't say that.

JIM MIDDLETON: Fair enough. Let's turn to other questions.


JIM MIDDLETON: You've brought a large group of Thai businessmen, business executives with you to Australia. But why do you think it is that Thai business is much more eager to invest in Australia than Australian business is to invest in Thailand?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: First thing that we bring the business community, about 60 coming here, because I think we believe that Thailand and Australia has very long relationship in term of the diplomatic way right now, this year will be the 60th anniversary. But we haven't had the package, or we haven't had the thing to cooperation. So that's why I come here for the first official visit. Because last time for Thailand has the government as the official offices for eight years ago, so now we come back and we have many angle of the bilateral with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, especially in term of the increasing of trade and investment.

JIM MIDDLETON: The business executives you've brought with you to Australia, are they mainly to look to invest in Australia or are they seeking to find partners to invest back in Thailand?


JIM MIDDLETON: And where the big opportunities that Australia may be missing out on at the moment in Thailand do you think?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: Mostly will be on the business, looking for the Australian partner to invest in Thailand. And I think now Thailand will be one of the destination country for other countries to invest because government has the policy to lower the package of the corporate tax from 30 per cent to 23 this year and will be 20 next year. That will be one incentive, that I think we reduce the baggage for the investor.

So I think Thailand and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) altogether will be half of the population of the world. So I think this is another one thing that will be more encourage Australian people to invest to Thailand.

JIM MIDDLETON: Another subject, final subject: how important is it for Thailand that Burma continue down the road to democracy?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: I think we - I have chance to visit Myanmar twice and we saw a positive sign on the reform from Myanmar. And I think this is the way all the ASEAN will encourage Myanmar to have the more proactive in terms of the political pick-up. Because I think it's very important for increased economic and also the democracy in ASEAN country.

And Thailand and Myanmar are close together. We are joint combine of the development together on the Dawei deep sea port. So I think Thailand, I think we believe that as the strategic location people will look for Thailand to invest in Thailand itself, and we will be Thailand as the gateway to ASEAN.

JIM MIDDLETON: You were talking about the development of that deep sea port which is in the Bay of Bengal, effectively. It'll obviously have significant benefits for Burma, but is one of the spin-off benefits that it will make access for Thai exports to India, the Middle East and to Europe as well that much easier; is that part of what you're hoping?

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: Yes, I think that would be one of my hope also. I think this because if we have the link and we if we connect to this in Thailand, most of the west-south corridor and the east-west corridor all the thing in Thailand will be connected. I think one thing that will be the convenience for all the company, the investor and the reduce of the cost of the logistic, so of course we see the benefit from this.

JIM MIDDLETON: Prime minister, thank you very, very much for your time.

YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA: Thank you. Nice to talk to you.
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