Thai PM backs Security Council bid
Support ... the Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, pays her respects at the Australian War Memorial yesterday. Photo: AFP
THAILAND has backed Australia's bid for a seat at the United Nations Security Council in a further sign south-east Asian nations will lend their support.
The announcement came after Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra - sister of deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra - was given a ceremonial welcome in Canberra yesterday to mark 60 years of diplomatic ties with Australia.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told an audience in Parliament's Great Hall more students will be given financial backing to study in Thailand as part of a drive to enhance Australia's ''Asian literacy'' as neighbourhood economies continue to boom.
Around 21,000 Thai students had studied in Australia but the number of Australians making the trip in reverse is tiny - with only three university students on endeavour scholarships in Thailand and a handful of others who pay their own way.
The government is believed to want to boost overseas exchange programs for Australian students as part of its draft ''Australia in the Asian century'' blueprint, due for release mid-year.
Thailand's backing for Australia in the Security Council campaign is significant as south-east Asian countries tend to vote in a bloc. Singapore announced it would support Australia's candidacy during Ms Gillard's visit in April, but Indonesia has previously indicated it had already given support to Australia's rivals.
Australia is competing with Finland and Luxembourg for one of two temporary seats reserved for ''western Europe and other'' countries.
Ms Gillard said a new scheme for leaders from both countries would give women a chance to follow the first female prime ministers of their countries.