Manny Pacquiao in Bangkok

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday praised boxing superstar Manny ”Pacman” Pacquiao for being an inspiration to children in Southeast Asia.

”He helps promote Asean’s reputation,” the prime minister said after a meeting with the Filipino at Government House. ”He is a good example for children in the region and inspires them to take up boxing.”

Manny Pacquiao and PM Abhisit

Pacquiao gave Mr Abhisit a replica world championship belt and a pair of signed boxing gloves. ”I hope he does not think we are in parliament,” Mr Abhisit joked with Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silpa-archa.

He was referring to a recent House session during which a government MP and an opposition member had a quarrel which almost led to a fist fight.

Mr Abhisit gave Pacquiao a basket of fruit of lychees, rambutans and oranges, and a framed picture.

Mr Abhisit and Pacquiao, the first Asian boxer to have won five world titles in five different divisions, could meet again in the political arena in the future.

Pacquiao is widely known to have ambitions to become a politician _ he was defeated as a candidate in a congressional election in 2007.

However, at a press conference yesterday he deftly side-stepped a jab about politics.

Asked if he wanted to become the president of his country, he said: ”I don’t think about it at the moment.

”Now I only focus on boxing. I will think about politics later.”

Pacquiao displayed the hallmarks of a politician when he praised Thailand during the news conference.

”I always dedicate my fights to my country,” said Pacquiao who was recently appointed an ”ambassador for peace” by Philippine President Gloria Arroyo. ”But I know that many Thais follow my fights. I am honoured that they consider my victories as theirs. I hope to be able to continue to make Thais proud.

”I also hope that this trip will help inspire Thai youth to take up sports and become the next generation of champions from Southeast Asia.”

Source: Bangkok Post