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Philippines' Arroyo Praises Thai Commitment to Restore Democracy


Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has praised Thailand's military-installed leader for what she calls his s"trong commitment to restoring democracy" in his country. She spoke after meeting with Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont in Manila, one of the stops on a regional tour by the Thai leader to win acceptance for his new government.

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont held a closed-door meeting with President Gloria Arroyo. A second meeting included cabinet officials of both governments.

Thailand has been under martial law since mid-September when the armed forces ousted the elected prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, in a bloodless coup.

Mr. Suryaud, a former general, was named prime minister by the military on October 1. The new Thai leader has promised his administration will only govern for one year before holding elections and bringing back democracy.

At a dinner at the presidential palace in Manila, Mrs. Arroyo - who has survived two coup attempts - said the two leaders held excellent discussions on what she called the "road map to constitutional democracy" and she praised Mr. Surayud's strong commitment to that goal.

"Having distinguished yourself as a valiant soldier on the battlefield, Your Excellency now presides over the arena which calls for your deep experience and wisdom in all fronts of statesmanship," she said. "The community of nations, especially ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] wishes you all the best as you undertake the task of advancing the causes of democracy and peace to nourish the indomitable spirit of the people of Thailand."

Mr. Surayud described the talks as cordial and said he and the Philippine leader think alike on key issues.

"I am encouraged and reassured that you as an economist and myself as a former military man can have common perceptions," he said. "These perceptions relate to political, security, and economic development issues in our respective countries and the region."

The Philippines currently holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Monday's talks were to include regional security issues as well as the upcoming ASEAN-China meeting late this month.

The Thai leader has been on a goodwill tour of neighboring Southeast Asian countries in an effort to win support for his military-backed government. He has visited Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia, and later this week goes to Vietnam.

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