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No-confidence debate against Thai gov't begins

BANGKOK, March 18 Kyodo

Thailand's two-day no-confidence debate began Wednesday with the government being accused of creating and promoting a bubble economy which caused the present economic crisis.

''The economic hardship Thailand is facing was caused by the financial system liberalization initiated by the (former) Chuan (Leekpai) administration without proper supporting measures,'' Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, opposition New Aspiration Party leader and former premier, said during the first day of the debate.

He said the first Chuan government, which ruled the country between September 1992 and July 1995, promoted the asset-inflated bubble economy by initiating the Bangkok International Banking Facility (BIBF), which encouraged large offshore borrowings by the Thai private sector.

''The Thai economy collapsed because of Chuan's (earlier) mistake,'' Chavalit, who resigned as prime minister in November last year, told parliament.

Chavalit also blamed Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai for meeting international financier George Soros during an official visit to the U.S. last week.

''I cannot look at the bright side of the meeting between the premier and Soros. Your gesture showed you were very happy to meet him. If I were you, I would not even shake hands with him,'' said the opposition leader, adding the meeting with Soros will affect Thailand's relationship with Indonesia and Malaysia as both countries have alleged that speculative attacks on their currencies by financiers were partly to be blamed for their economic woes.

Chuan defended his meeting with Soros, saying he could not bar Soros from the seminar which he was addressing because Soros was the president of the organization holding the seminar.

He reiterated his meeting with Soros will not affect relations between Thailand and Indonesia because during his visit he always asked U.S. officials, private-sector representatives and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to understand Indonesia's problems which were more complicated than Thailand's.

Thailand obtained a 17.2 billion dollar rescue package brokered by the IMF in August last year.

Even though Chuan's coalition government has a slim majority of 207 seats in the 391-member house, political analysts said the no-confidence motion will not topple the government as there were no clear mistakes during the government's four-month term in office.

The government also has large public support due to the clean image of Chuan and the ruling party's strong economic team. Besides, said analysts, Chart Pattana Party, a main opposition partner, was reluctant to grill the government as it wanted to join the coalition.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Mar 23, 1998
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