Fri, 04 May 2001

Gus Dur plans Thai visit to boost trade

JAKARTA (JP): Palace officials on Thursday confirmed that President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid was going ahead with a visit to Thailand later this month despite being caught in a battle for his political survival.

Chief presidential spokesman Wimar Witoelar said the visit was to boost trade and economic relations between the two countries, who were both founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"The visit is to finalize a significant commercial deal, so I think (the President) should go ahead with this planned visit," Wimar told The Jakarta Post in a telephone interview.

The planned visit was first announced by Abdurrahman last week during a meeting with businessmen from his own National Awakening Party.

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Rizal Ramli then confirmed the visit after meeting Abdurrahman at the residence of Haji Masnuh, a close friend of the President, earlier in the week.

Rizal at the time said that the purpose of his meeting with the President was to prepare Abdurrahman for his upcoming trip, slated for May 14 and 15, by informing the President of the outcome of his own recent trip to Thailand.

Palace sources said earlier on Thursday that preparations for the Thailand visit had been a low-key affair and added that instead of using a special presidential flight, Abdurrahman might use an Air Force passenger jet for his upcoming trip.

Abdurrahman said last month in the Central Java town of Tegal that he was also scheduled to visit Australia next month. (byg)