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Deiss gets taste of domestic politics during Thai visit

Swiss Foreign Minister, Joseph Deiss (left), meets the Thai Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai, in Bangkok


The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has been holding talks with the Thai prime minister, Chuan Leekpai, and the leader of the opposition, during a tour of southeast Asia.

Deiss and the Thai prime minister used their meeting to familiarise each other with politics in their two countries: Leekpai told Deiss he intended to dissolve parliament and call new elections.

For his part, the leader of Thailand's opposition, Thaksin Shinawatra, complained to Deiss that the Thai government was too concerned about politics and not interested in the welfare of the population.

Deiss brought Leekpai up-to-date about Switzerland's position on membership of the European Union and the United Nations.

The Swiss foreign ministry said Leekpai had also been particularly interested to hear about a recent vote to limit the number of foreigners in Switzerland to 18 per cent of the population. The initiative was rejected in a September ballot.

On Monday, Deiss held talks with Thailand's deputy prime minister and minister of commerce, Supachai Panichpakdi, who is due to take over as head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in two years' time.

They discussed bilateral economic ties, as well as the future of WTO, which has come under fierce criticism recently.

Deiss also met his Thai counterpart, Surin Pitsuan, to discuss a joint treaty on the transfer of prisoners. Around a dozen Swiss nationals are currently in Thai jails.

Other issues on the agenda were the use of children as soldiers and the situation in Myanmar. Switzerland recently joined the European Union in tightening sanctions against the military government there.

On Wednesday, Deiss travels to the Philippines on the second leg of his Asian tour.

swissinfo with agencies

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