Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya appears to be a lightning rod for the current government, due to his previous active roles both on and off the PAD stage.
Piphob Thongchai, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), lauded Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva for his courage in including Kasit in his Cabinet, as ‘Kasit has shown the guts to protect the country, and has been a diplomat accepted by other countries.’
Piphob insisted that Kasit’s ministerial job was not in any way the PAD’s ‘quota’: ‘Kasit did not get the post because the PAD sent him. He’s not got the wounds like some in the Cabinet. It’s good to have him as Foreign Minister to explain to other countries what Thaksin has done to Thailand.’
Deputy Prime Minister and the Democrat’s Secretary-General Suthep Thaugsuban also insisted that Kasit had to be distinguished from the PAD, but, perhaps, rather was a Democrat who joined PAD activities.
After retirement in 2004, Kasit joined the Democrats as shadow Deputy Prime Minister, and in August 2006 was a party-list candidate for the mid-October elections which never happened because of the coup on September 19.
Kasit was Ambassador to Indonesia, Germany, Japan, and the US where he retired. According to him, in 2001 he worked for the Thai Rak Thai government which transferred him to the Prime Minister’s Office, and he once was an admirer of Thaksin’s before taking a vow to topple him and joining hands with the PAD.
Kasit was a target of criticism after he made comments to foreign reporters on Dec 19, 2008, on the PAD seizure of Suvarnabhumi Airport, saying he found it to be fun and, ‘the food was delicious and the music was good.’ Later he denied saying this, and blamed foreign reporters for getting him wrong.
It has also been cause for concern that his personality and recent record with the PAD might pose a threat to Thailand’s relations with Cambodia. At PAD rallies during the dispute over Prear Vihear, Kasit helped fan the flames by addressing Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen with a variety of derogatory words and phrases, some of which could be translated as ‘the rogue next door to Thailand’, ‘a bum’, or ‘a scoundrel’, when he was on The Nation television channel on Oct 14, 2008.
But when he became Foreign Minister, and made a visit to Phnom Penh on Jan 26, 2009, he was quick to shake hands, and call Hun Sen ‘a decent senior’ in the ASEAN community.
‘I think His Excellency Hun Sen is mature and respectable. He greeted me with, “We met 20 years ago”. So he is mature enough, a gentleman, and the most senior political figure in ASEAN. I think he also looks ahead to strengthening the relationship. I think he’s not childish or likely to make trouble. And I think you [reporters] should not make a stir. We should move forward, and help make the relation constructive,’ said Kasit.
Prime Minister Abhisit said on Dec 24, 2008, that Kasit’s comments had been made before he became a minister. Wiping the slate clean, the PM vowed from then on to keep his ministers in line with what his government had pledged.
Previously in 2008, Abhisit himself attacked then Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair of the now dissolved People’s Power Party, accusing him of holding ‘dangerous attitudes’. Abhisit called on Jakrapob to take responsibility for the latter’s speech at an event hosted by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, alleging that he was alluding to the highest institution when he mentioned the patronage system in Thailand. With mounting pressure from the PAD, Jakrapob finally decided to call it quits.
In comparison, Kasit openly went on PAD stages at Government House and Suvarnabhumi Airport, making scathing speeches against political opponents, including a neighbouring nation and its leader. He even unwittingly confessed his crimes by proudly bragging about the fun of the airport seizure plus the appreciation of the food and music there.
Kasit still insists his joining with the PAD was the right thing, ‘What has the PAD done wrong? I mean the PAD is not an organized crime group or anything of that sort, but an expression of democracy, because they are the majority of the people, 60-70% being housewives, who come out to call for justice and governance, against corruption. I think being involved with the PAD is not a sin’
Both of them committed the alleged offences before they took office. One was called on to resign by Abhisit, while the other has come clean.
Quotes of Kasit Piromya on the PAD stage at Government House
Oct 15, 2008
‘…Our politicians and generals have made a mistake that seriously jeopardizes the dignity of Thailand, by allowing Hun Sen, a fledgling, a rogue across the border, to give his ultimatum. Who the heck do you think you are, Hun Sen?’
‘Hun Sen has fought with us for 20-30 years since he was Khmer Rouge, gave in to the Vietnamese, and turned against us. He has always been hostile to us. Maybe it’s a feeling inherent in his blood. He can’t help it as he was born to kill Thais, and dislike Thais. So when there’s a chance to humiliate Thais, he won’t hesitate to do so. And, secondly, he might be insane. He‘s a Cambodian warlord who doesn’t know what peace is, or what negotiation is. He’d only gain from the dispute. The UN should be advised to send psychiatrists to cure Hun Sen.’
‘[Hun Sen] is the Vietnamese Communist Party’s underling. He might have been told to keep meddling with Thailand so that foreign investment would pour into Vietnam, instead of Thailand.’