DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thailand’s new prime minister isn’t mincing his words on the state of the economy.
ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA, PRIME MINISTER OF THAILAND: I’m telling the people now it’s going to be tough, but it’s not impossible to overcome.
RIVERS (on camera): So, when you say tough, what do you mean?
VEJJAJIVA: I mean that, you cannot expect, for instance, the rates of growth to hold up to the rates that we’ve experienced maybe in the last couple of two, three years. There’s going to have to be a slowdown. There will inevitably be problems in terms on employment. And that it’s not going to be easy to completely stabilise the political situation in the short space of time.
RIVERS (voice-over): And he acknowledges the political horse trading with former allies of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, wasn’t an idea way to come to power.
VEJJAJIVA: I’m not happy with the way things are. If I could choose my own path, I would love to get into power after elections. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. But, I do come through a democratic, constitutional system, according to parliamentary rules. And I intend to use that majority now to work for the Thai people and to do my best for the country. And when things stabilise, then it’s time for the people to have another position.
RIVERS (on camera): Thaskin Shinawatra and his allies would say, look, we’re the most popular show in town. Any way you cut it, irrespective of any electoral fraud, we would still win a landslide —
VEJJAJIVA: Let me ask you again. Why have opinion polls put us ahead of them?
RIVERS: Well, why won’t call an election if you think you’re going to win?
VEJJAJIVA: Because at this time, people expect a fast recovery of the economy and to stabilise the political situation.
RIVERS: I mean, they would say you’re running scared because you know if you hold an election tomorrow, you’ll lose.
VEJJAJIVA: I don’t think I would.
RIVERS: How did you persuade Newin Chidchob’s faction — a politician who was loyal — not just loyal to Thaskin, he was one of his right hand men, for goodness sakes. How did you persuade his group of MPs to come over to your side?
VEJJAJIVA: Basically, they felt that Thaskin had raised the various political contracts to levels that were no longer acceptable to them.
RIVERS: And so they were honestly doing this for the good of the nation?
VEJJAJIVA: If people were to speculate about the various deals, let me tell you outright that there are no deals made concerning the interests of groups of people. Rather, what we talked about was that this was a real chance for the country to achieve stability and to move the country out of the crisis. Let’s do it together.
RIVERS: Why then did senior democrats and other politicians go and visit the army commander General Anupong? What has he got to do with this political situation?
VEJJAJIVA: I’m not aware of that kind of meeting. But, the army chief has said, that he has expressed views on how the country should move forward. And he wasn’t partisan.
RIVERS: But, did you consult with General Anupong?
VEJJAJIVA: I have never consulted.
RIVERS: Never? You’ve never consulted with him in the last few weeks about the situation?
VEJJAJIVA: No. No.
RIVERS (voice-over): He also acknowledged that Thailand’s strict les majeste laws stopping criticism of Thailand’s revered king were being used as a political weapon by rival politicians to attack one another.
VEJJAJIVA: There are cases in the past where this law has been abused for political purposes. And I agree that that has to stop.
RIVERS: And he denied he tacitly supported yellow-shirted anti-taxing protestors who’d occupied government buildings and Bangkok’s airports.
VEJJAJIVA: We had a common cause, in terms of fighting injustices. We don’t always have common objectives. For instance, when they suggested that a new political system should be put in place with some appointed offices, we disagreed. And certainly, our methods are different and I express opposition to the way they decided to occupy
both Government House and also the airports.
RIVERS: The big question is, how long will he last? The fifth prime minister is just over two years. His main battle now may simply be clinging onto power.