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RUNAWAY EX-PREMIER: Wooing Washington
Thu, Jul 01, 2010
The Nation/Asia News Network

The government and the opposition are locked in a race to win the support of the United States over the recent political crisis.

Closely following the government's special envoy, Thaksin Shinawatra's legal adviser, Noppadon Pattama, has gone to Washington to repaint the red shirts' image and the Thai political crisis in Americans' perception.

Noppadon, a former foreign minister, said he would hold talks with US officials, congressmen, academics and media representatives, to give them information from the other side on the political situation in Thailand over the past few months.

'DEMOCRACY LOVERS'

"I'm telling them the red-shirt protesters are not terrorists, but rather simply democracy lovers who called for justice, and former prime minister Thaksin is not a terrorist either," Noppadon said in a video-link call from Washington yesterday.

Noppadon will meet with Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell at the State Department, a political source said, adding that he had also sought meetings with ranking senators, including John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, Howard Burman and Richard Lucas.

"Noppadon is believed to rely on Ed Rogers, a lobbyist working in the law firm of former US secretary of state James Baker," the source said.

Noppadon's mission comes two weeks after Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva dispatched a special envoy, Kiat Sittheeamorn, to Washington to explain the government's reconciliation plan to President Barack Obama's administration and lawmakers.

US CONGRESS 'RESOLUTION TODAY'

Noppadon said the US Congress would today pass a resolution on Thailand's political situation to support a peaceful resolution to the political conflict and the road map for national |reconciliation.

An earlier congressional resolution, sponsored by Senator Jim Webb, was passed on May 24 and called for the restoration of peace and stability. It passed only days after a military crackdown on the red-shirt protesters at the Rajprasong intersection that killed scores of people and injured hundreds more.

"The resolution will not be binding on Thailand, but it's a pleasure to see the US pay attention to Thai problems," Noppadon said. "But I think Thailand cannot achieve reconciliation unless the government shows its sincerity by lifting the state of emergency and granting political freedom to the people."

If anyone did anything wrong, the government should charge them, rather than detain them without charge under the emergency decree, he said.

Noppadon said he was also proposing his version of a national reconciliation plan to people he met in the US.

"We hope the US administration will be more engaged about the situation in Thailand. They can use diplomatic channels to encourage the government to look at our proposal," Noppadon told Agence France-Presse in an interview on Tuesday.

"It doesn't mean they are interfering in Thai politics. You can give friendly advice to your friend - it's just natural. US-Thai relations are very important, and if your friend is weak or is divided, your friend may not fulfil the potential that he or she has."

Prime Minister Abhisit said Noppadon was unlikely to be successful in his mission to change American attitudes towards the Thai political crisis, because the US had a good understanding of the situation.

He said congressmen who closely monitored the issue supported the government.

"He [Noppadon] will do everything to serve the interests of his boss, but I serve the interests of the country," Abhisit said. "I wish he would serve the country, but he chooses to serve only his boss."

The government earlier tried hard to win support from the US and the international community.

The Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Abhisit himself briefed diplomats and |foreign journalists on the situation from time to time. At the height of the crisis, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya summoned the US ambassador to protest after Campbell met with Noppadon and politicians close to the red shirts during a brief visit to Bangkok.

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