STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: The fear of the disease, the cost of the clean up. My next guest has clearly a lot on his plate. Joining us now from Washington is Thailand's (search) ambassador to the U.S., Kasit Piromya.
Ambassador, is this the worst natural disaster in modern times to hit Thailand?
KASIT PIROMYA, THAILAND AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: Yes, I think so. Yes, from what I can remember.
VARNEY: Now we just heard a report that it would take maybe a couple of years — repeat, years — to rebuild the tourist areas, certainly in western Thailand. Is that an assessment that would you agree with?
PIROMYA: No, I don't think so, because most of the damage is along the coastlines, and I think that the main infrastructure are mostly buildings that have to do with the tourism industries. I think that could be overcome in less than two years. I do not agree with the two-year span.
VARNEY: So it is therefore clearly a humanitarian tragedy, but not necessarily an economic catastrophe?
PIROMYA: Well, I think immediately it would be an economic catastrophe as far as the tourism industry is concerned, but I think that the buildings could be rebuilt again within a shorter period of time. I would not go to two years. I could think about six to 12 months.
VARNEY: Now, we understand that Australian police are on their way to Phuket (search), to help patrol and perhaps help in the relief efforts. And my question is, would your government accept American soldiers, or sailors for the relief effort? Because that's a political question.
PIROMYA: No, it is not a political question — we have been partners and allies for decades. And I think some of the military aircraft from your base in Okinawa (search) are already in Thailand. And a few more would be coming. The military aircraft of the United States, I think the Navy, will be operating with the Thai authorities concerned, and also will be a sort of a regional hub of operation in the affected countries.
And I think the Department of Defense has already been in contact with our military authorities from coordination and for search and rescue, inclusive of some of the medical activities and so on.
VARNEY: We've heard reports that there was an inadequate warning given to those hotels and resorts in the tourist areas. Would you agree with that and, if so, is it an area of political concern in Bangkok?
PIROMYA: No, I don't think so. I don't think that inadequate would be the wrong word. I think we were not warned. I think it's something very new, something unexpected and it just happened.
VARNEY: So, it's not a political issue?
PIROMYA: No, I don't think so. And second, I think we are not a country that has been in the line of earthquake and big natural calamities. We are on the mainland. And so far, it has been quite safe for so many years. We never have this type of situation before, so it's very unique. One cannot generalize.
VARNEY: Sir, I'm sure that all our viewers join in offering our condolence to the Thai people and to the royal family for the loss of the grandson of the king. Mr. Ambassador, we thank you very much for joining us, sir.
PIROMYA: Thank you very much.
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