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Bomber aircraft donation, security talks to highlight Thailand premier's visit to Manila

Gulf News

The official handover of the first four of eight US-made OV-10 attack aircraft donated by Thailand to the Philippines, as well as talks with President Gloria Arroyo on security and economic concerns, will be the highlight of Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's two-day visit to Manila which started yesterday.

Shinawatra arrived in Manila around 6 pm yesterday at the Villamor Air Base in Manila's suburb of Pasig City to a welcome by Philippine government officials.

"Upon the invitation of the president's palace, the Thai prime minister will meet with President Gloria Arroyo on his second day in the country today, as a manifestation of the Philippines' strengthened relations with Thailand," the foreign affairs department said.

The two leaders, according to palace sources are expected to take up security issues-particularly, anti-terrorism – as well as economic and social concerns.

Thailand has recently captured Riduan Issamudin, an Indonesian dissident who is wanted in the Philippines for his alleged role in the December 30, 2000 bombings in Metro Manila that killed 22 people and injured hundreds.

Manila had said that it also wants to put Issamudin, also known as Hambali, on trial for his role in the bombings in the capital. Issamudin is believed to be presently in the custody of the United States government.

A former general-turned one of Thailand's most successful entrepreneurs, Shinawatra has steered his country from its slump after the 1997 economic crisi,s to one of the fastest recovering economies in Southeast Asia.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said Shinawatra will also give a lecture on his economic and social policy, "Thaksinomics," the "One Tambon (Village)-One Product," and the campaign against drugs.

Shinawatra in February launched a massive crackdown on drug trafficking in his country, a bid that had been widely hailed as successful. The Thai leader is expected to share his experiences with Arroyo, who herself started in June a renewed bid against the proliferation of narcotics in the Philippines.

The Philippine leader, during her recent Bangkok visit, invited the Thai Premier to personally deliver the aircraft and give a speech on Thaksinomics.

She has adapted the economic agenda of the Thai premier focusing on boosting consumption to revitalize the local economy.

Under Thailand's economic policy, the government has been promoting domestic consumption by encouraging small and medium enterprises and boosting agricultural growth to get the economy moving.

The Philippines is also expected to benefit considerably from the Thailand government's donation of eight OV-10 attack aircraft, a light bomber that the Philippine Air Force also has in its inventory.

The turnover ceremonies for the four OV-aircraft will take place at the Villamor Airbase before the Prime Minister leaves the country.

Eight aircraft to be handed over

- Thaksin Shinawatra to hand over first four of eight U.S.-made OV-10 attack aircraft to the Philippines.

- The other four are to be handed over in 2004 along with spare parts.

- Anti-terrorism, anti-drug trafficking also on the agenda of Shinawatra's talks with Philippines President Gloria Arroyo.

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