11 July 2024

Visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says that the Thai Constitutional Court’s decision to acquit the former Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat of violating electoral law sends a message to the international community and serves as a conciliatory signal domestically.

“On one hand, this is a message to the international community. On the other, it is also an internal conciliatory signal,” Steinmeier said during a joint press conference with Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin at Government House on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Pita was cleared of holding shares in a media company while standing for parliament. The ruling ended eight months of political uncertainty for Pita, who had been suspended from his MP status pending the ruling.

Steinmeier’s comments about Pita came as a surprise, as foreign leaders usually refrain from commenting on the internal affairs of the countries they visit. The president also met with Pita on the side lines of his four-day official visit to Bangkok, during which he is holding bilateral discussions with Srettha.

In a joint press conference, Steinmeier hailed the steps taken to strengthen democracy in Thailand under the new civilian government as positive progress during his visit to the country.

Referring to Srettha’s administration, which took office last August, Steinmeier said, “After just a few months in power, you can’t expect everything to change, but the signals so far are very encouraging.”

Speaking at the press conference, Srettha said that Thailand and Germany plan to expand their relations into a strategic partnership. The path for this is to be prepared during his official visit to Germany in March.

“Thailand is back,” said the Thai prime minister. Thailand is a popular holiday destination for Germans. According to Srettha, some 700,000 came last year, he added.

This is Steinmeier’s first visit to Thailand since taking office in 2022 and Thailand’s first official visit by a foreign head of state under the current Thai administration. The last German presidential visit to Thailand was in 2002, by Johannes Rau, the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany.