SIAM THIS MORNING
Mahathir supports Thailand in S'pore row
Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad threw his support behind Thailand's diplomatic spat with Singapore, accusing the city-state of interfering in the country's internal affairs and violating diplomatic norms by permitting a senior government official to meet ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
In an interview with Nation Channel's Thepchai Yong over the weekend on this island resort, Mahathir said Singapore had permitted Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar to meet Thaksin in spite of their awareness that such an act would seriously upset Bangkok.
[See full interview]
"Singapore doesn't really care about the opinion of its neighbours," said Mahathir, adding that the decision was "unfeeling and not sympathetic".
"Singapore believes the most important thing is what profits Singapore," he said.
Thai-Singapore relations have hit one of its lowest points following the controversial meeting. The Foreign Ministry insisted that it had given the island-state prior warning about Thailand's strong objection to the meeting.
Two weeks ago, army chief General Sonthi Boonyaratglin accused Singapore of spying on Thailand by eavesdropping on telephone conversations, adding more fuel to what was billed as an already difficult situation between the two countries.
"That's the kind of things they do," Mahathir said.
The Singaporean government dismissed Sonthi's claim.
When asked about his 22 years of dealing with Singapore, Mahathir said "You'll get nowhere with them either by being nice or by being tough, they only think of themselves," Mahathir said.
Nevertheless, Mahathir said both sides need to patch things up but in away "that is honourable", which, he said, should start with an apology from Singapore.
The former Malaysian leader said he would welcome a meeting with Thaksin only if the former Thai premier asked for it - but then quickly downplayed the idea, saying: "I don't have anything to discuss with him."
Thaksin has publicly praised Mahathir as his role model during his time in office.
"Although he has said I was his friend and he wants to follow my way, many of his ways are not my way," Mahathir said.
Thaksin has been living in exile since he was ousted in September. The former premier has launched a media campaign to discredit the military-appointed government in Bangkok and the junta itself, accusing them of mismanagement and being undemocratic.
The purchase of the Thaksin family-controlled Shin Corp in January by Singapore's investment arm Temasek Holdings triggered an outcry in Thailand and exploded into a national scandal that precipitated his downfall after it was disclosed the family paid no taxes on the Bt73-billion deal.
The deal allowed Temasek to control operation of mobile phones, satellite and television networks, which the junta deemed as a possible access to areas of security concern.
Mahathir said Thailand had benefited economically under Thaksin but added that his handling of policy and controversies were not very diplomatic.
Mahathir dismissed a suggestion that Thaksin had followed in his footsteps by meddling with the freedom of the press. He said his outspokenness against Western countries was responsible for his being cast in a bad light in the foreign press.
Malaysian former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's interview with Thepchai Yong will be aired on Channel 5's "Siam This Morning" on Wednesday at 6.15am.