Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul yesterday rejected reports that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had influenced the government's visa waiver deal for Montenegrin diplomats and office holders.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, wearing a silk jacket on which the colours have run, examines products made of Thai silk and designed by Italian couturiers in Milan. She said her clothes for her Milan trip were made using the water-damaged silk fabric of the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts And Crafts Centre which was hit by flooding in 2011. GOVERNMENT HOUSE
Mr Surapong, who doubles as foreign minister, rebuffed allegations the waiver was a reward for Montenegro granting a passport to the fugitive former premier.
The passport allowed Thaksin to travel extensively in Europe after his Thai passport was revoked in 2009. Thaksin fled the country in 2008 to escape corruption charges and was later sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.
Democrat MPs and Panitan Wattanayagorn, a Chulalongkorn University foreign affairs lecturer who acted as Democrat spokesman during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, attacked the government's visa waiver decision on Tuesday shortly after it was approved by cabinet.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is in Montenegro today to meet President Filip Vujanovic before returning to Thailand tomorrow. The two leaders are expected to agree on a reciprocal visa waiver deal for Thai diplomats and office holders.
Mr Surapong stressed the planned agreement would not help Thaksin return to Thailand. He said the deal between Thailand and Montenegro had nothing to do with Thaksin as the ousted premier does not hold diplomatic or official travel documents.
"Thaksin must return to Thailand honourably under a fair judicial process only," Mr Surapong said.
"I don't want the opposition party to play politics in the old style, and it should adjust its behaviour. The party should follow the advice of former British leader Tony Blair who said Thai politics should turn constructive."
Mr Surapong said signing the agreement is a normal process to strengthen relationships with other countries.
He said the visa waiver scheme is one of two agreements the Foreign Ministry will sign with Montenegro.
The other is a double-taxation exemption deal.
Mr Surapong also responded to criticism of Ms Yingluck's frequent trips abroad.
He said when Mr Abhisit was prime minister for two years and eight months, he and his foreign minister Kasit Piromya visited at least 34 countries and signed visa waiver deals with three countries, including Cambodia, Spain and France.
Ms Yingluck, in her two years and one month, has visited 55 countries and signed similar agreements with five countries including Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Montenegro, he said.
Mr Surapong insisted Ms Yingluck's overseas excursions will benefit Thailand as she has been accompanied on each trip by Thai investors seeking new business markets.
In Italy, Ms Yingluck yesterday met six Thai honorary consuls from Milan, Genoa, Turin, Naples, Catania and Venice.
She asked them to help support the food, services, design and fashion industries, in which the Thai and Italian governments have agreed to forge much closer ties.
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- Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol