From correspondents in Bangkok
November 12, 2006
A FORMER Thai prime minister has accused Australian politicians of being ignorant and uninformed about Asia, just days before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting starts in Vietnam.
Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) chairman Anand Panyarachun said western politicians, including those from Australia and New Zealand, had failed to understand the country's recent military takeover in a bloodless coup on September 19.
"You say that Australia is an Asian nation and it should be well aware of what's going on in other Asian countries," Anand said.
"But this (coup) is a case in point - you're not Asians yet, you have an entirely different mentality - you belong to the Western group."
His comments echo similar views held by Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad who earlier dismissed Australia's efforts to move closer towards Asia in the 1990s.
Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, both preparing to visit the region ahead of the APEC meeting in Hanoi this week, have criticised the Thai military's takeover in which Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown.
Thaksin had been accused of muzzling the media, abuse of power and corruption as well as human rights abuses in suppressing a Muslim insurgency in Southern Thailand and the deaths of more than 2,000 people during a drugs crackdown in 2003.
"That you think, whenever there is a coup - the generals took power it would be like a coup on Africa or in Latin America," Anand said.
"It would be followed by sectarian violence, it would be followed by this or that ... and not many people were able to hear that not a single shot was fired - there was no damage to property.
"It's politically correct - you know the attitude - to say that 'coup d'etat is no good'. Practically, some of them understand ... some of them (diplomats) who are stationed here, but somehow their reports were not read in the capitals.
"In a way, I would view those Western leaders - be they American, Australian, New Zealanders - they are uninformed people. They're ignorant, they're completely ignorant," Anand said.
Anand served as prime minister after the military took over in 1991 and again in 1992 after street protests and bloodshed forced the military's appointed prime minister, General Suchinda Krayprayoon, from office.
He described the September coup as a "hiccup" and a step backward".
"But on the other hand, how many of your people would be able to understand, would be able to know that during Thaksin's time we did not have democracy - we only had elections, we only had a parliament ... we only had a government, but there was no democracy," Anand said.