2011/11/19

Obama hails Thai PM's 'inspirational' election win

NUSA DUA, November 19, 2011 (AFP) - US President Barack Obama on Saturday warmly congratulated Thailand's recently elected novice prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra on her "inspirational" victory at the ballot box.

Thailand, a longstanding US ally, has been riven by political divisions that culminated in mass Bangkok protests last year, with more than 90 people killed in clashes between the army and supporters of Yingluck's brother Thaksin.

Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup but Yingluck, who Thaksin once described as his "clone", was named prime minister after her Puea Thai party won a general election in July.

At a meeting on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit on the Indonesian island of Bali, Obama said he wanted to "extend congratulations to the prime minister" for an "inspirational election".

Since coming to power Yingluck has been sorely tested by Thailand's worst flooding in decades which have left around 600 people dead and outer parts of the capital Bangkok inundated.

"We will extend any assistance we can," said Obama."The US and Thailand are two of the oldest allies, with great friendship. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims of the flood."

Yingluck thanked Obama for his co-operation.

Early in the floods crisis Washington despatched warships to Thailand to help with relief efforts, but they left after no formal request for help was issued.