Press Briefing on Air Force One on the Way to Bangkok

PRESS GAGGLE – from Air Force One, en route to Bangkok, Thailand – foxnewsinsider.com, November 17, 2012

[Most of it is about Gaza, Benghazi, the fiscal cliff, etc., but there are few interesting bits about the region.]

…We’ve been working with the Thais to deal with how to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For instance, the Thais successfully interdicted a shipment from North Korea that was bound for Hamas — not a WMD shipment, but again, smuggling and weaponry…

Just to take you through the schedule, we’ll get there, we’ll go to Wat Pho, which is one of the iconic cultural sites in Bangkok. Then the President will have an audience with the King of Thailand, the longest-serving monarch in the world, actually, and a very important figure in the Thai system, also someone who was born in the United States, in Massachusetts, but then became King in 1946. I want to make sure you guys have some good facts here on Thailand.

…Q. Is he [the King] an American citizen?

MR. RHODES: We were asking that question. I’m not entirely sure, but he was born in Massachusetts so it would make sense. But of course he’s led Thailand as King for over half a century…

Q. …I noticed there’s no plan for a pool spray or anything after his meeting with Hun Sen. Is there any — going to be any effort for the President or the White House to tell the people of Cambodia what he tells Hun Sen about human rights? In other words, to tell him that we told him, cut this out…

As it relates to Cambodia’s human rights situation, we have very grave concerns about human rights within Cambodia. The President will raise that certainly when he sees Hun Sen. We’ll raise it publicly in every opportunity that we have to address it. We’ll continue to make clear that we want to see greater political freedom in Cambodia. We want to see a movement towards an election that is credible and fair. We want to see the release of political prisoners there as well…

[The following is the answer to a question about the Thai royal succession which is also a good example of a classic spokesperson non-answer.]
…It is true that the King has been an extraordinary figure in Thai history and has been the source of unity for the people of Thailand. Thailand also of course has an elected government. And one of the purposes of our engagement with Thailand is to reinforce the strength of their democratic institutions. They’ve had their own challenges in recent years — in defining a military’s role, for instance, in their political system. We have close relationships with the — across the Thai government and across the Thai military. And what we want to do is strengthen Thai democracy by, again, investing our relationships in the institutions that they’re building — or the democratic institutions that they’re building so that whatever challenge emerges, Thailand’s democracy is strong enough to weather those challenges.

…MR. RHODES: Well, again, what we’ll say is the Prime Minister is Yingluck; it’s not her brother. So she’s the one that we deal with. And it’s not uncommon for the President to talk to his counterparts about their respective domestic challenges, but I’ll leave it to them to figure out what to talk about…

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