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RESTORING INVESTOR CONFIDENCE: Premier seeks to clear the air

May 3, 2001

PRIME Minister Thaksin Shinawatra next week goes on his first overseas roadshow to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin and former US president Bill Clinton, among other political and business leaders, at the Fortune Global Forum in Hong Kong.

Thaksin is meeting today with top officials from the Foreign Ministry and the PM's Office as well as his key advisers to go over the main thrust of his speech at the forum. The goal: To restore investor confidence in his administration's policies.

Jiang's opening remarks at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre will kick off the session called Next Generation Asia on Tuesday. Thaksin, who will leave for Hong Kong on Tuesday night, will give the keynote address on the following evening to some 500 political and business leaders. Clinton's talk will conclude the events on Thursday.

Thai officials said Thaksin will have to deliver a momentous speech that captures the soul of his government.

"The Foreign Ministry is going to work on the speech. Pansak Winyaratn [the prime minister's chief adviser] will also look at it," one official said.

Finance Minister Somkid Jatusripitak and Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai will accompany the prime minister as he seeks to clarify his government's policies.

Thaksin's speech at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific last week provoked a mixed reaction from the international community. He is expected to use this opportunity to reinforce Thailand's firm commitment to international rules and an open-door policy towards foreign investment. So far Thaksin has been subjected to criticism by the foreign media, which mostly view the economic programme of his government as an attempt to turn back the clock.

At one point, Thaksin blamed himself for not making his meaning clear to foreign investors. His personal view is that Thailand needs to rely more on its inner strengths as it moves to embrace globalisation. But the message that emerged gave the impression that the Thaksin administration is becoming more inward looking or is trying to turn away from foreign direct investment. Thaksin is assembling his team to rectify this misconception.

In Hong Kong, Thaksin will host a breakfast for Jiang. The topics will likely centre on cooperation in the suppression of illicit drugs and the rice trade. Thaksin will also meet with Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's chief executive.

By Thanong Khanthong







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