Bangkok, Thailand ((Nov. 16, 2011) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held a Joint Press Conference this week at the Government House in Bangkok where Clinton was visiting.
PRIME MINISTER YINGLUCK: Madam Secretary, Excellencies, distinguished members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, let me begin by welcome Secretary Clinton to Thailand once again. This is always a pleasure for us here in Thailand to welcome our friends from the United States. As like my country with many share value and belief, Thailand and the United States are allies and strategic partner that have long enjoyed close tie for friendship and cooperations.
This is why I regret very much not being able to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Hawaii earlier this week. Secretary Clinton graciously expressed strong support for my decision to stay at home during the time of need. And we both look forward to my meeting with President Obama during East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN-U.S. Leaders’ Meeting in Bali in a few days’ time. As a full-fledged democracy once again, after the July general election and with the (inaudible) mandate of the people, my government and I look forward to working even closely – closer with the United States to promote our bilateral ties as well as to address regional and international issue of common interest and concern.
First and foremost, though, I wish to place on record our thanks and appreciation to President Obama as well as the government and people of the United States for the assistance extended to us to support of our flood relief effort. The assistance, be it financial, technical, or (inaudible) was not only generous, but timely. Given the increased (inaudible) of severity of national disaster in the regions and elsewhere, the need for closer cooperations on disaster management cannot be overemphasized. In this connection, Thailand has been in discussion with the United States about possibility of using the U-Tapao Airport for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, (inaudible) propose, especially on rapid deployment in case of disaster in the regions. (Inaudible) standard operations – operating procedure, and enhancing skill and readiness for (inaudible) capabilities.
We in Thailand stand ready to work in the partnership with the United States on this very important issue, the damaging effect of natural disaster on crop. Cultivation and food production is also an issue of the greatest concern, one that is directly related to food security. This is an issue that we will have to address as well as in order to ensure the well-being of our peoples. I also reaffirmed that this government attach high priorities to promoting political reconciliation and social cohesion. This is being done through our strong support for ongoing work for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and providing fair and equitable remedy to all those affected, reconciliation and stabilities, good governance, enhanced (inaudible), universally acceptable rule of law. I believe we are regaining the confidence and trust of Thai people and the world.
With the APEC meeting just conclude, I also wish to take opportunities to congratulate the United States for the successful chairmanship of APEC during this (inaudible) significant progress was made toward its mission to regional, economic (inaudible) and to the (inaudible) goal for free and open trade and investment.
Lastly, I want to say how much we welcome the United States continued engagement with Asia, and Southeast Asia in particular. I, therefore, look forward to my bilateral meeting with President Obama on Saturday. Given the base and depth of our partnership, as far as our similar outlook on many of the challenge and opportunities now before us, there is much Thailand and the United States can do together. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good evening, everyone, and thank you very much, Prime Minister, for welcoming me so warmly back to Bangkok. It is a pleasure to be here to renew the ties that have bound the United States and Thailand together for so many years. Our nations are connected through not only security cooperation and business ties, but the democratic values we share and the bonds of family and friendship that link our people.
During this past century, we have stood by each other in times of challenge, and we are proud to stand with you now in this time of challenge as you contend with the worst floods of your nation’s history. Tomorrow, I will visit one of the largest flood evacuation facilities and talk with flood victims. And in the days and weeks ahead, the United States will continue to identify ways we can provide both military and civilian assistance to help save and restore lives, to support Thailand’s long-term recovery and rebuilding.
We have worked closely and continuously with the Thai Government from the start of these floods. Early on, we responded to requests for assistance by providing emergency support, including water pumps, boats, generators, survival kits. And as the needs grew, we intensified our efforts. Assessment teams are on the ground now to prepare for U.S. contributions to help Thailand restore vital infrastructure and services and address public health needs. We are providing direct medical services and improving hospital readiness.
One of our ships, the USS Lassen, is now in port with crew and helicopters to assist in the recovery efforts. One of our major areas of focus will be to help the Thai Government reopen the Don Muang Airport, Thailand’s second-largest airport, to resume commerce and tourism, and also help reconnect people with their families. We will also help the Thai police return to full strength by assisting them in reopening police stations when it is possible to do so. And we are identifying sites that hold historical significance to the Thai people to help protect and restore monuments of Thailand’s proud and ancient culture.
I want to emphasize that although, of course, we are all focused on the immediate needs, the United States will be with you for the long run. We are working to help Thailand improve its capacity to prevent, prepare for, and respond to disasters like these floods. And we will support Thailand’s economic recovery as a trade investment and development partner. I recognize that these floods pose an early and serious challenge to the new Thai Government and to the hard-won peace that the Thai people achieved after the political violence that you have endured in recent years.
The United States stands firmly behind the civilian government of Thailand and the work it is doing to consolidate strong democratic institutions, ensure good governance, guarantee the rule of law, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We encourage the government to move forward with a political reconciliation process, which is critical to Thailand’s long-term stability and security. As it does so, it can also count on support from the United States.
We had an opportunity to discuss not only bilateral and regional issues, but global ones – how to deepen commercial ties and expand trade, how to strengthen security cooperation on issues ranging from proliferation to maritime security, which will be discussed at the East Asia Summit. I’m very pleased that the prime minister will be attending the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting. I fully supported, as did President Obama, her decision not to travel to Hawaii for the APEC meeting because of the press of business here at home.
But Thailand is a leader, and having the prime minister present for the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting is very important. For more than 170 years, our alliance has helped keep our nation and our region secure, and that has, in turn, permitted us all to become more prosperous and freer. There is such a long history of cooperation between us, and that will continue far into the future. The United States – not only our government, but our people – are committed to the people of Thailand and to the government. We are proud and grateful for this alliance. It has delivered results, and now we have to ensure that it continues to deliver results for both of our people for decades to come.
Thank you, Prime Minister.
PRESS QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Thank you, Madam Prime Minister. I wanted to follow up a little bit on what you’re talking about the political reconciliation. You mentioned that with the floods, Madam Secretary, with the floods that it was important to have reconciliation. For both of you, do you feel that all sides in Thailand are on the same side right now at this time of floods? Are people working together? What are the signs you see on that?
And if I can kind of follow up to the prime minister, there have been reports that your cabinet is working on an amnesty that could potentially affect former Prime Minister Thaksin. I wanted to see if you could comment on that, say whether that is true, and if so, why?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will start by reiterating that we have encouraged the Thai Government to continue to move forward with the political reconciliation process, to address the violence that surrounded the political unrest of recent years, particularly through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Thailand. This encouragement from us comes from our shared commitment with Thailand to democratic values and institutions that underpins both of our nations and our alliance.
And we are encouraged by the many steps that the government continues to take to consolidate strong, democratic institutions, to ensure good governance, to guarantee the rule of law, and to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. The free and fair elections that were held in Thailand in August demonstrated Thailand’s commitment to the democratic process. It is certainly up to the government and people of Thailand to determine exactly how to proceed, but we are encouraging it and quite heartened at the steps we have seen taken.
PRIME MINISTER YINGLUCK: (Inaudible) to go back to your questions, your question is – sorry that I missed this cabinet meeting because by coincident of the trip that – to go back, was on Monday night. And in this detail, I think I’ll – the deputy prime minister will handle this. But normally in the process, that will be the common process, and everything we have to make sure that it’s (inaudible) law and then will be applied for everyone. Thank you.
PRESS QUESTION: Madam Secretary of State, (inaudible) from Bangkok Post. Could you elaborate the additional $10 million that you announced today? How would this – will it be expedited? And also the Don Muang project, how could that be – the drain and repair thing? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. Let me begin, again, by offering, on behalf of President Obama and our government and all of the American people, my sincere condolences to those who have lost so much during this terrible flooding. We’ve had our own experience with natural disasters, including terrible flooding. And I personally think that as terrible as natural disasters of all kinds are, flooding is probably the worst. It’s hardest to control, it’s hardest to end, it’s hardest to begin the recovery process because it is just such a long-term process for, first, the waters to rise and then to recede. And so we have great sympathy for what the people of Thailand are going through.
Since the beginning of the flooding, we have been in close consultation, working with the Thai Government, both the civilian authorities and the military authorities, to assess needs and assist flood victims. And we have provided funding, as you may know, to the Thai Red Cross and the International Organization for Migration to quickly procure and distribute relief supplies. One thing we have learned is that it is not for the United States to determine what you need. You tell us what you need, and then we try to respond.
So we are working to open the Don Muang Airport, because that’s a high priority of the Thai Government. It will provide not only an additional staging area, but also hopefully get tourism moving so that people will come to beautiful Thailand, as they historically have done for this upcoming season. We also were told that working with public health was important and providing technical management assistance to the flood management system, as well as immediate flood relief in the form of pumps and boats and generators. All of that is in process, and one of the reasons why our government sent the USS Lassen to the harbor, where it arrived today, is because of its helicopter capacity to work with the Thai military and disaster officials to be able to quickly respond.
Now I know that anytime there is a disaster like this, people are in a state of shock and great despair, because oftentimes they see everything they’ve worked for either washed away or flooded. And we have great sympathy for that, but we commend Thailand’s resilience in the face of this historic disaster. We have a lot of confidence in the government and people of Thailand, that not only in this rescue period but in the periods to come, the restoration and recovery period and the rebuilding period, that you will come back even stronger. Thailand’s progress has been remarkable to all of us who have watched over the last 20 years, and we expect even more from Thailand in the future.
We’ve also been working with our U.S. companies to assist in flood relief efforts and to ensure their continued investment in Thailand. And I’m very proud that Coca-Cola is teaming up with Habitat for Humanity on reconstruction projects, and Chevron has donated $2 million toward relief and recovery. So it’s not only our government what we are doing; it’s also our private sector. And the prime minister and I discussed other ways going forward that we will work together.
So we know this is challenging work, but it is work that we are committed to doing. Thank you.