PM vows to keep World Expo bid

Denies pressure from brother Thaksin

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra insists the Thai government remains committed to its bid to host the prestigious World Expo 2020.

She also yesterday denied speculation the Thai government is preparing to quit the contest for the rights to organise the event in order to give it to another country.

"The Thai government has yet to withdraw from the bidding, and the Tourism and Sports Ministry itself remains busy with the plan," said Ms Yingluck.

She also rejected speculation that Thailand may withdraw from the contest to allow Dubai in the UAE, where her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, lives in exile, to step in and host the exposition that year.

Suranand Vejjajiva, secretary-general to the prime minister, said Ms Yingluck just needs relevant agencies to conduct more studies on the rate of investment return for the project and how Thailand can make the best use of facilities and infrastructure in order to generate revenue after the event ends.

A Kasetsart University study estimates it will cost at least 70 billion baht to develop expo facilities at the chosen site in Ayutthaya along with related infrastructure.

Thailand is among five countries that have lodged official bids for the event, the others being Turkey, Russia, Brazil and the UAE. The winner will be announced in November.

The World Expo takes place every five years and runs for six months.

Thailand's campaign has experienced setbacks in the form of political changes, budget cuts and, more recently, the vacuum created by the death of Chumpol Silpa-archa, the former tourism and sports minister.

The Paris-based International Exhibitions Bureau paid an inspection visit to Thailand recently but left with many questions unanswered.

A source familiar with the trip said the most critical question was how the country intends to use the 1,280-rai expo site to generate revenue and recover its costs after the event ends.

Another bureau inspection is scheduled for June if Thailand does remain in the race.

Ayutthaya Governor Withaya Pewpong also insisted yesterday that his province and the Thai government remain adamant it will continue its campaign.

He said Ayutthaya and its people are also fully confident in the province's appropriateness and competitiveness as opposed to the four rivals.

The province's strengths are its historical legacy and World Heritage status, said Mr Withaya.

Once known as a centre of diplomacy and commerce and for its architectural, cultural and religious diversity, Ayutthaya is today renowned for its agriculture, industry and tourism, he said.

"We've made much progress in preparing to host this prestigious world event," said the governor.

"The location is prepared, and we've worked directly with 30,000 residents to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the event and asked for their cooperation. Myriad activities have also been held to further the Thai effort for this."

Pravit Sribanditmongkol, president of the Thai Exhibition Association, said withdrawing from the bidding will definitely undermine Thailand's image, causing the country to miss out on future opportunities to organise big events.

"Even if Thailand loses the bid, at least we'll have done our best," he said.

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