[The coup in Thailand]
1. The coup is a setback, both for Thailand and for ASEAN. I was in New York at the UN General Assembly when it happened. ASEAN Foreign Ministers were embarrassed and expressed their concern. Our continued support for Dr Surakiart's candidature as UN Secretary General became a little awkward because he was no longer Deputy Prime Minister. The key was the attitude of the King. Once he signalled support, everyone felt more relaxed. PM Thaksin's acceptance of the situation from London also helped.
2. Thai society will recover from this. It enjoys what scholars call 'deep stability'. The monarchy is a pillar of Thai society. Thai Buddhism too. This recent coup was bloodless and quickly accepted by the majority of Thai people even though some naturally had misgivings. I told a minister from the Middle East that the Thai economy would be largely unaffected. Quick as he was, he asked whether I meant that he should 'buy'? I smiled replying that he should not sell.
3. Our relations with Thailand will not be affected. They go back a long way to the 19th century. Ourtside our old Parliament building is an elephant statue given to the people of Singapore by King Chulalongkorn. Last year, I brought Foreign Minister Kantathi, a good friend and colleague, to my Meet-the-People session at Hougang Block 414. After that, we went to the nearby kopi tiam for supper. One stallholder greeted him with a sawadee khap. Another spoke to him in Thai! He enjoyed himself and I felt very proud presenting him to the residents there. One interesting point: he was surprised that none of my helpers received payment. Disbelieving me, a few of the Thai officials accompanying him separately asked them the same question in different ways.
Photo credit: wikipedia.org