Thai PM calls for concerted effort to protect democracy



by Saman Indrajith


Prime Minister of Thailand Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday stressed the need for the world to unite to preserve democracy, which, she said, was the best form of government to protect the rights and liberty of people and advance society’s interest.


PM Shinawatra said democracy was not an internal affair of one country’s alone. "Democracy is rather something that the world must join to preserve." She said Thailand and Sri Lanka with their experience and lessons could contribute greatly to the advancement of the democratic process."


PM Shinawatra was delivering her special address to Parliament yesterday.


She said both countries cherished the values of democracy and Buddha’s teachings. Buddhism was established in Thailand with the help of Sri Lanka some eight centuries ago. "And 260 years ago, a group of monks from Thailand performed higher ordination for Sri Lanka monks. This eventually led to the establishment of Siyam Maha Nikaya here in this country. This makes our Buddhist link unique. And this is the reason why our people are so firmly connected. More importantly, on this day in rapidly changing world, with cut-throat economic capitalism, political turmoil and social disruption, we must work together to strengthen Buddhism as a religion and a way of life. I would like to ask all of you to join this quest so that Buddhism can be a solution that brings peace not only to the individual mind but also to human community as a whole," she said.


PM Shinawatra said that she was happy and honoured to address the Sri Lankan Parliament which had been addressed by her brother former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin. "I am so excited to address your Parliament which had been addressed by my brother ten years back as the Second Prime Minister of Thailand ... On a personal level, I deeply honoured to be addressing the same Parliament where the world’s first female Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranike once led the government."


Prime Minister Shinawatra arrived at Parliament Complex around 2.32 pm and was conducted to the House by Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa. She occupied a special seat beside the Chair as the sittings commenced. Introducing Thai Prime Minister, Speaker Rajapaksa said that her visit and address to Parliament would strengthen the long standing relationship with Thailand, which dated back to many centuries ago. "Both our countries have a predominantly Buddhist culture based on the Theravada tradition. We are also grateful to your country for the assistance rendered to revive Buddhist practices at a time when Buddhism suffered a decline in our country... We are also very grateful to Thailand for its support to Sri Lanka at international and regional fora, particularly at the UN Human Rights Council."


Leader of the House, Irrigation Minister proposing a vote of thanks said: "I wish to recall with gratitude the cooperation and support extended by Thailand to Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013 having appreciated the hardships our country has gone through facing terrorism for the last three decades and the ongoing reconciliation process."


Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremesinghe seconding the Minister said that Sri Lanka and Thailand were unique as both were the only democracies in the world where Theravada Buddhism was practised. He said that Waskaduwa Sri Subhuti Vihara and Deepaduttharamaya in Kotahena were testimonies to the long standing religious links between the two nations. He said that when he was the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka the then Prime Minister of Thailand Thaksin Shinawatra had addressed the Sri Lankan Parliament. Recalling the removal of Thaksin from office, the Opposition Leader said: "We may have been thrown out of the office, but none of us would be thrown out of the country. Democracy and people will prevail."


Excerpts of Prime Minister Shinawatra’s speech:


"First of all, I would like to say that I am so excited to address your Parliament which was addressed by my brother ten years ago as the Second Prime Minister of Thailand. It is a great pleasure for me to be here in Sri Lanka the beautiful island nation at the opposite end of the Bay of Bengal. Although we are separated by an ocean, our two countries share common religious faith and cross cultural and political belief. I feel privileged to speak to the elected representatives of the people of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan people have always cherished protecting their nation and the values of democracy. On a personal level, I feel deeply honoured to be addressing the same Parliament where the world’s first female Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike once led the government.


"About 260 years ago, a group of monks from Thailand performed higher ordination for Sri Lanka monks. This eventually led to the establishment of Siyam Maha Nikaya here in this country. This makes our Buddhist link unique. And this is the reason why our people are so firmly connected. More importantly, in a rapidly changing world, with cut-throat economic capitalism, political turmoil and social disruption, we must work together to strengthen Buddhism as a religion and way of life. I would like to ask all you to join this quest so that Buddhism can be a solution that brings peace not only to the individual mind but also to human community as a whole.


"Both our countries care deeply about democracy. Despite challenges that try to destroy our beliefs in democracy, democracy survives …. Democracy is the best form of government to protect the rights and liberties of people and advance society’s interest. And democracy is not an internal affair of one country’s alone. Democracy is rather something that the world must join to preserve and protect the people. Our two countries with our experiences and lessons can contribute greatly to the advancement of the democratic process.


"The world is facing the common threat of climate change and natural disasters. Our countries shared the fate of the tsunami in 2004. Thailand had to face one of the worst floods in our nation’s history two years ago. As climate change threatens human security, we need to work to protect our people by reducing risks from natural disasters. I call for closer cooperation, collaboration with an action plan to coordinate to work in providing disaster relief operations.


"Asia is home to almost 60 percent of the world’s population … About three billion people in Asia and Africa live around the Indian Ocean. Enhanced regional connectivity will strengthen link in the countries in the Indian Ocean rim. This is a strategy being pursued by Thailand and ASEAN. We are building better transport links between the member nations of ASEAN and other regional organizations including South Asia. We are investing 66 billion US dollars in infrastructure development. That will link us with the region. Better connectivity leads to more trade, investment, choice and better links between people. One of the key projects is our deep sea port which we are working on with Myanmar in Andaman Sea. This will link up Andaman deep with the gulf of Thailand and will open a new economic corridor between the Indian Ocean with Pacific sea. In Sri Lanka’s development of deep sea ports, we allow Sri Lanka to benefit from our ports. This would help connect Sri Lanka with member countries of the ASEAN and other destinations.


"Ultimately, with enhanced connectivity between Asia and Africa we can formulate a common development agenda. Thailand has started the Thai-African initiative in which Thailand will host a high-level dialogue with Africa in November this year. So, I hope Sri Lanka will join us in these long term efforts to connect Asia and beyond. This will help for more peace and prosperity in our region and ensure that it will remain the engine of the global economy.


"In closing, I would like to express my appreciations for the warm hospitality extended to me and the honour of addressing this parliament. Thailand and Sri Lanka have opened a bright chapter for the future. This modern partnership based on shared values and shared interests will bring the best of friends together for the peace and prosperity of our two nations, of our region as a whole. It is a great honour to stand among the friendly members of Parliament."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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