PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 8521


Photo of Keating, Paul

Keating, Paul

Period of Service: 20/12/1991 to 11/03/1996

More information about Keating, Paul on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 20/05/1992

Release Type: Press Conference

Transcript ID: 8521

PM: I have just got a few minutes so I want just to give
you a comment on the situation in Thailand. I would
like to begin by saying that I take this opportunity
on behalf of all Australians to express our horror
at the actions which have lead to this needless loss
of life In Bangkok. We are appalled at the wide
spread use of excessive force by the Thai military,
and our Embassy in Thailand is monitoring the
situation. And I urge the Thai Government to ensure
that the troops act with maximum restraint to avoid
further bloodshed. Could I also say that as a
result of the actions that have been taken to date
by the Thai military, the Government is, in response
to that action, withdrawing 20 Australian soldiers
from the Special Air services Regiment and 11 C130
Aircrew which were deployed to Thailand on May 5 for
training with the Royal Thai Special Warfare
Command. We think it is incongruous that in these
circumstances Australian military personnel be
training with Thai personnel while the Thai military
are taking this action against their citizens. So
we are withdrawing that Special Air Services
Regiment and the air crew that accompany them.
Could I also say that the Acting Minister for
Foreign Affairs and Trade, John Kerin, will be
closely monitoring developments and we will be
looking at our relations with Thailand in the light
of how the situation unfolds.
Does that mean, Prime Minister, that you are
prepared to downgrade our diplomatic relationship
with them if necessary?

PM: Well I think we will just put the Whole relationship
under review. I think one can see the tragic
contrast between the developments in Thailand over
the last period, the recent years of prosperity and
stability, with what's happening now. We have
sought, through both aid and advice, to make
Thailand a better place for the Thai people to live
and we take that responsibility seriously. But
because of this violence we will examine the whole
J: Prime Minister are you considering suspending
economic aid as well as military?
PM: Not at this stage. I have made clear in the past
that there can be a linkage to State-sponsored
violence, but the aid is, after all, humanitarian
aid and economic aid. It is aid for the people of
Thailand, it is not for the Generals. And again,
the aid tap can't be turned just on and off over
night. It's projects, and it's goods and services,
and so in our examination of aspects of the
relationship we will examine the aid program as
J: Has any thought been given to bringing the
Ambassador back for consultations?
PM: Well I think it is important that there is somebody
there who we can speak to and who is also in a
position to address the Government, and so I think
the Ambassador is in an important place at the
J: There have been some allegations by commentators in
Thailand that the violence has been premeditated
rather then just a response of a volatile situation.
What's your reading of the situation?
PM: I don't think I can give you a reading on that.
J: How do you respond to the Oppositions claim that the
Government's response has been slow?
PM: Look, Dr Hewson jumps on everything these days. Any
event and he has a silly press statement out five
minutes later dictated over 8 portable phone
somewhere. I mean the fact is, Dr Blewett issued a
statement yesterday, it was not clear until late
yesterday what the general situation was. Our
Ambassador was not in a position to give us an
indication, and I think our response will be both
timely and firm.
J: Mr Keating what sort of political pressure can we
put on to Bangkok to stop

Pm: well I think international opinion, including the
opinion of neighbours, is going to matter io all
countries. And the fact that I am saying that we
are appalled by the violence, that we express our
horror at the action of seeing the military of this
country shooting down citizens is about as strong a
position as we could say or take.
J: Does it concern you that very few, if any, of
Thailand's ASEAN neighbours have publicly criticised
the Thai military over its actions? Is it an
indication to you of just how hard it is going to be
to enmesh Australia in the region?
PM: Well I think, I have said this to the House and I
will say it again, we will be giving our views about
violation if we see a violation of human rights no
matter where it occurs or how it occurs. One of the
things I have been saying in recent times that our
traditions, and our respect for these things will
not be diminished by any wish we may have to become
more closely enmeshed with the region. But again,
you can't tar the region either with these sorts of
J: Are these the only Australian troops in Thailand?
PM: yes.
J: The Thai Officers in Australia at the moment could
that be a second level of response, to send them
PM: well there is a clear incongruity about Australian
Military Officers in a country where these
violations are occurring and in training with the
service which is actually perpetrating. This is not
the case here, and I think that widely fits into a
general thought, or review of the relationship in
the broad.
J: What was your personal reaction when you saw the
footage on TV?
PM: Well I couldn't be anything but appalled by it. You
really hardly believe it is happening.
J: Will you support an international arms embargo
against Thailand?
PM: Look, this has happened 24 hours ago, so before you
start getting declaratory about all these things, we
will have the whole relationship looked at.
J: Do you accept the arrangement which gave the Left
the next vacancy in your ministry?

I -t.
PM: Look, I didn't come here for a general press
conference, my friend, I see enough of you, not as
much 88 I am sure you would like me to Bee Of YOU,
but I have got an ERC Meeting that should have taken
place 35 minutes ago, so I better go.
J: Prime Minister will you be sending your views direct
to the Thai Prime Minister?
PM: Well our view has been communicated already by our
Ambassador and any amplification of that view will
be sent directly, exactly.
J: ! If the killing stops will the military exercises
PM: They are not going to be resuming because they have
been brought back to Australia. And before any
other military exercises obviously will take place,
the whole relationship will have to be changed,
clarified, and settled.
J: I8 the information you're getting suggesting that
the military may be prepared to compromise, or is
your information suggesting that the crack-down will
continue? I
PM: Well it is not clear as to whether or not more
violence will be perpetrated in the course of this
day. I can't give you an answer. But nor can I give
you the view that it won't be. It was sporadic, and
has ceased. That unfortunately may not be true.

Transcript 8521