Thai FM plans first foreign trip 'alphabetically'

BANGKOK, Sept 2, 2011 (AFP) - Thailand's new foreign minister unveiled plans for his first overseas visits on Friday and said he had decided to arrange the tour schedule in alphabetical order.

Surapong Tovichakchaikul, whose appointment last month attracted criticism in Thailand because of his lack of high level experience, said he will travel to Brunei first on September 11.

The regional tour will encompass the nine other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc.

"I will start with Brunei as it is first alphabetically, but Indonesia will come second because it's currently chairman of ASEAN," he told reporters at Government House in Bangkok.

The alphabetical order will then resume with a trip to Cambodia, on September 14, and then Laos.

He said he would visit all other ASEAN nations -- Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam -- within September without giving exact dates for each country.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who took power last month after an overwhelming win in the July 3 election, has not yet revealed her travel schedule.

Her fledgling government has already drawn fire over a recent visit to Japan by her brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Thailand's opposition says the country's new leadership illegally helped Thaksin obtain a visa for the trip.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, addressed international media and visited areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami during the tour, which was seen as an attempt to return to the world stage.

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