Chinese envoy urges reconciliation to resolve Thai political stalemate

Chinese envoy urges reconciliation to resolve Thai political stalemate
Chinese Ambassador Ning Fukui (centre) during a television interview.

BANGKOK - China's ambassador to Thailand has added his voice to the growing calls from the diplomatic community for all sides in the political imbroglio to try to find a peaceful solution.

While stressing that the Chinese government has no policy of interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours, Ambassador Ning Fukui said on Thursday that China would like to see reconciliation and peace in Thailand.

"From my talks with many of my Thai friends, there is an agreement that there needs to be some mechanism to prevent a repetition of such political conflicts in the future," he said during his visit to The Nation.

The Chinese government maintains close ties with all parties in Thailand, he said.

"We understand all political parties in Thailand want to have a good relationship with China. And China also wants to have a good relationship with every party," he said.

The visit to Thailand last October by Prime Minister Li Keqiang was meant to raise the Sino-Thai relationship to a new level, he said.

During Li's visit, the Chinese side expressed strong interest in taking part in the now-stalled high-speed train project and committed to buying 1 million tonnes of Thai rice.

The purchase was a gesture of friendship from China, which understood the difficulty Thailand was facing with its rice-pledging scheme, he said.

The Yingluck government at the time gave a different version of the deal, saying China had agreed to take 5 million tonnes of rice over a period of five years. It was also understood then that in return China expected special consideration for its bid for the bullet train project.

Ning said China has strong interest in helping Thailand develop its infrastructure, including rail lines, airports and ports. China's high-speed train technology is comparable to that in the West. The cost is also lower and its safety has been proven, he said.

China's offer to assist Thailand in the development of its infrastructure was a "win-win" approach, he said.

Despite the political conflict, Thailand remains the top destination in Southeast Asia for Chinese tourists, he said. More than 4 million Chinese visited Thailand last year, a jump of 60 per cent from previous years. Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi are their favourite destinations.

More than 100 million Chinese tourists travelled the world last year and according to various estimates, the number will reach 200 million by 2020, he added.

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