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Volume 582: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2014

5. What programmes are sponsored by her Department in Thailand to reintroduce democracy and support the rule of law. (904297)

The United Kingdom has been encouraging commitment to democracy and rule of law in Thailand following the coup. The Government are liaising closely with EU partners and others on a united response. DFID does not have a programme in Thailand, because it is an upper middle-income country.

The Oxford development economist Paul Collier has charted the way in which aid can, in fact, increase the risk of a military coup. What action is DFID taking, bilaterally or through multilateral engagement with Thailand, to send the unequivocal message that democratic governance must be restored?

As I have said, DFID does not have a bilateral aid programme in Thailand, but the UK is working closely with EU and others in the international community, including our ambassador in Thailand, to secure commitment to the values of democracy and the rule of law in the interests of Thailand’s peace and stability.

As the Minister will know, much concern has been expressed about arbitrary detentions and restrictions on the media and the right to protest in Thailand. While I appreciate that DFID does not fund Thailand directly and has no aid programme in the country, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), said on 25 May that owing to the current political situation there, the Government would have to review the scope of their co-operation with it. Was DFID involved in those discussions?

The hon. Member is absolutely right. We are particularly concerned by the restrictions on freedom of assembly, association and expression, and by the large number of arbitrary detentions. However, this is an FCO lead, so we do not make those particular representations.

The Minister has indicated that we do not have an aid programme with Thailand, but are the Government reviewing aid programmes in the general region, as they may be affected by the coup in Thailand and people moving from Thailand across the border?

We obviously keep a watching brief on the region, and in fact at the moment it is the other way round, because some funding from our Burmese programme is supporting the Burmese refugee camps in Thailand. At the moment, from what we can see the coup does not seem to be having any impact outside the country.