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Tony Blair Greeted with Protests in Bangkok



Protestors storm the streets of Bangkok after claims emerged last week Tony Blair was to be paid £400,000 to speak at the peace forum convened by the Thai government


BANGKOK Tony Blair faced angry street protests in Thailand yesterday after jetting in to advise the country on peace and reconciliation.

The former prime minister was heckled after local news reports claimed he was being paid more than £400,000 to speak at a one-day conference in Bangkok.

Protesters carried banners saying ‘Blair ruined the UK, stay out of Thailand’, and ‘Blair speaks,  Thailand pays’.

Mr Blair, a Middle East peace envoy, denied receiving a fee for his appearance. So did the Thai government, who said taxpayers were covering only Mr Blair’s travel, accommodation and expenses.

Mr Blair said: ‘Just for the record, I’m not being paid. I’m here because you invited me.’

He then cracked a joke about wearing a blue-coloured tie to avoid association with either of  Thailand’s red or yellow-wearing street protest groups. The event was organised in a bid to draw a line under years of civil strife that followed a military coup in 2006.

But hopes of reconciliation between Thailand’s feuding  factions were undermined after key opposition figures boycotted  the conference.

Within hours of Mr Blair’s lecture, Thai newspaper columnists were insisting nothing had been gained by the event.

Mr Blair has faced a backlash in Britain for writing a series of  hawkish newspaper articles calling for Western intervention in Syria.

The ex-premier, who was pictured last week holidaying on the yachts of wealthy friends in the Mediterranean, described the decision by the Commons to block military action as ‘shocking’.

Former Tory Cabinet minister David Mellor called for a ‘period of silence’ from Mr Blair. Protesters in Thailand also held a series of demonstrations against Mr Blair’s visit outside the British embassy last week.

They handed in a petition opposing his participation in the conference, arranged under the title ‘Uniting for the Future: Learning from Each Other’s Experience’. Mr Blair, who helped to broker the peace process in Northern Ireland, told the conference that the events of the past should be ‘honestly examined’ but never judged.

He urged the Thai government to engage opposition voices in the democratic process.

A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘Mr Blair was not paid for this event – he was there to talk, for free, about reconciliation.

‘It was actually a very positive discussion. During his time there he also met with the leader of the opposition.’


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