Thu, Jan 18, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Singapore deplores Thailand's reaction to former PM's visit

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore has said it is saddened at Thailand's actions against the city-state after a controversial private visit by former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In a statement late on Tuesday, the city-state said it had no reason to turn away Thaksin, the elected leader ousted in a bloodless coup last September.

Thailand earlier on Tuesday summoned Singapore's ambassador in connection with Thaksin's weekend visit to the city-state, and withdrew an invitation that had been extended to Singapore's foreign minister.

"The invitation to visit Thailand during Jan. 29-30 for Singapore's foreign minister is withdrawn," Thailand's foreign ministry spokesman Kitti Wasinond told reporters in Bangkok.

He said that an exchange program for civil servants set for Jan. 29 to 30 had also been suspended.

"We regret that the Thai government has decided to suspend" the exchange program and rescind the invitation to Minister for Foreign Affairs George Yeo, Singapore's foreign ministry said in its statement.

Thailand summoned Singapore's ambassador to explain why the city-state had allowed Thaksin to meet a top government figure during his visit.

In its statement, Singapore said Thaksin visited the city-state "on his own" and had asked to meet his "old friend," Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar.

"The Singapore government hopes that Thailand can appreciate Singapore's position on the visit. The Thai government did not notify us that Dr Thaksin has been charged for any offence. There is also no restriction on where he can travel to," the city-state's foreign ministry spokesman said, describing the meeting with Jayakumar as social and private.

"No official calls or meetings were arranged. Thai nationals do not require visas to visit Singapore. There is no reason for Singapore to turn Dr Thaksin away," the foreign ministry said.

The ministry added that before arriving in Singapore, Thaksin had visited several other countries without any protest by the Thai government.

"We are therefore saddened that the Thai government has chosen to take this course of action. We hope Thailand will respect Singapore's position as that of a sovereign country. We value the longstanding friendly relations with Thailand," the foreign ministry said.

Thailand's army-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont on Tuesday described the matter as "our internal political problem, because there are many Thais who are still loyal and love Thaksin, so we ask Singapore to consider whether his movements send any message to Thailand."

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