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Deiss holds talks with Thai leaders

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has been meeting political leaders including King Bhumibol, during a visit to the Thai capital, Bangkok.

The first full day of Deiss's Asian trip was given over to discussions of economic issues. It included talks with the deputy prime minister and minister of commerce, Supachai Panichpakdi, and representatives of Swiss industry.

In addition to bilateral economic ties, Deiss and Panichpakdi discussed the future of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which has come under fierce criticism recently. Panichpakdi is due to take over as head of the WTO in two years' time.

Swiss industry has seen exports to Thailand increase by 30 per cent this year. But exports from Thailand, which is still recovering from the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, grew by a more modest 10 per cent.

"Thailand is in transition," Deiss said on Monday. "On the one hand it is very developed, but in some respects it still resembles a developing country."

During his short stay in Thailand, Deiss is also expected to meet his Thai counterpart, Surin Pitsuan, and sign a joint treaty on the transfer of prisoners. Around a dozen Swiss nationals are currently in Thai jails.

Other issues on the agenda are 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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