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Time magazine spotlights ‘Salesman’ Srettha with wide-ranging interview

(The Nation/ANN) -- Time magazine has placed Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on the cover of its March 25 edition, calling him “The Salesman”.

Time magazine has placed Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on the cover of its March 25 edition.

“I want to tell the world that Thailand is open for business again,” Srettha tells Time’s Charlie Campbell, during a wide-ranging interview held in a Government House room “ringed by whiteboards chock-full of scrawled policy objectives: digital wallets, national aviation hubs, potash mining, Tesla”.
Srettha stares from the cover with a look of determination on his face, arms crossed over his chest.
The prime minister’s efforts since taking office last August have already paid dividends, Time says, noting that foreign direct investment in the fourth quarter of 2023 doubled from a year earlier as Amazon Web Services, Google and Microsoft inked deals worth a combined US$8.3 billion or 296 billion baht.
But Srettha has inherited a stagnating economy, soaring inequality and a politically divided country from the previous “quasi-military” government, it adds.
Thailand’s GDP growth “has been below 2 percent over the past decade, while neighbours like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam registered double to triple that rate and ate Thailand’s lunch on FDI”.
Srettha freely acknowledges the depth of his challenge, telling the American news icon that Thailand is in an “economic crisis”.
However, Time says the country feels “shortchanged by his election” after Srettha’s Pheu Thai party came second to Move Forward, which was then blocked from forming a government by a military-appointed Senate.
“The paradox is that Srettha is fighting to fix Thailand’s economy by partnering with the same forces invested in thwarting major reform,” the magazine says.
Given his controversial path to power and the dire state of the economy, the property tycoon-turned-PM is under pressure to deliver progress quickly, it adds.
The magazine also pinpoints five takeaways from the interview.
First, Srettha insisted on Thailand’s neutrality regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine and defended his decision to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Thailand when the two leaders met in Beijing in October.
Second, Srettha said he would defend the royal defamation law, or Article 112 of the criminal code, whose penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment “make it one the world’s harshest”, the magazine says.
Third, the PM wants Thailand lead efforts in resolving neighbouring Myanmar’s civil war. Thailand is establishing a humanitarian corridor on its border to deliver aid to conflict victims inside Myanmar but has also engaged with its military regime while appearing to sideline other stakeholders including the parallel civilian government.

(Latest Update March 15, 2024)

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