Recently elected Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made her first official trip abroad on Saturday, meeting with the Sultan of Brunei to discuss bilateral relations. Closed door talks reportedly covered the exchange of agricultural knowledge and the continuing Thai insurgency of Muslim seperatists in the South.
The trip came as Yingluck makes her first official visits to Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia this week.
Indonesian Prime Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is hoping to improve relations after unstable years of Thai governance, which have slowed trade cooperation amid the ups and downs of Thai politics.
Thai expert Bantarto Bandoro, from the University of Indonesia's department of international affairs said that though the visit may be an opportunity to bolster ties, it may also be a way for Yingluck to improve her domestic political position. Eager to distance herself from her brother and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra's policies, Yingluck has now entered her second month in office. Many believe that in order to increase Thailand's international cooperation, she must ease political tensions within the country.
Report: New Thai PM’s Visit Raises Hopes For Trade Links (Jakarta Globe, 9 September 2011)
Recent moves by her party's Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yumbamrung, may hinder this process, when he said on Friday that his party will continue to work towards its campaign pledge to absolve deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra. "It is an important matter that we need to work on," he said, saying there was no pressure from either Thaksin or his sister, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Thaksin left Thailand shortly before the Supreme Court handed down its verdict in 2008. It sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of authority. Chalerm criticised the country's former democrat led administration for stalling a red shirt attempt to petition for the return of Thaksin for over 2 and a half years.
He noted that the petition was initiated by 3.6 red shirt supporters and not his Pheu Thai government. It was not until earlier last week that the Justice Ministry announced it had completed verifying the signatures.
The Thai opposition has already accused Yingluck's government of abuse of power, pointing to Yingluck's lack of political experience, alleging that they are aiding Mr Thaksin, and accusing them of unfairly removing senior officials.
Report: As Yingluck goes abroad, trouble brews at home (TODAY, 12 September 2011)
Report: Thaksin amnesty gathers steam (Bangkok Post, 9 September 2011)