In the midst of escalating tensions between the United States and China, the Thai government, led by newly-minted Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, is navigating the ever-complex waters of international diplomacy. The Prime Minister’s inaugural overseas trip was to the bustling metropolis of New York City, serving as a delegate at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA78), amongst other co-occurring meetings.
The PM’s diplomatic engagements were diverse in nature – traversing discussions with other national leaders, heads of international organizations, and influencing figures in both bilateral and multilateral platforms. Notably, Srettha held conversations with the likes of Tesla’s celebrity CEO, Elon Musk, exploring possible avenues of investment into Thailand. In addition, other influential business leaders took part in these forums, including those belonging to Microsoft, BlackRock, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Estee Lauder.
Upon the conclusion of his U.S. visit, the Thai prime minister plans to travel to China. His dual visits to both nations will provide insights into Thailand’s strategic foreign policy, especially on maintaining a balanced relationship with China and the U.S, two of the world’s leading powers.
In the context of foreign affairs, Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara stressed on three pillars – economy, security, and technology, while outlining this government’s policy to officials at the ministry. The Minister eagerly anticipates a convocation in Thailand, inviting Thai ambassadors from different nations, expressing confidence in Thailand’s increased global prominence under this new leadership.
However, the unfolding Myanmar crisis may present a diplomatic challenge for the new government, as per Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security and international relations expert. According to Panitan, Thailand’s foreign policy mandate bears striking similarities with its predecessors’. His advice for Thailand is to uphold its neutrality, closely interacting with every faction involved in the Myanmar conflict, while simultaneously rebalancing its stance towards the buoyant American economy.
Wattanayagorn also highlighted the need to address rampant human trafficking issues to improve Thailand’s standings in the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report. He also suggested the absence of explicitly clear justification for defining Thailand’s foreign policy towards China under the existing Pheu Thai leadership.
Wattanayagorn suggested that successful diplomatic relationships with such powerful nations may necessitate Thailand to maintain distance on certain issues while aligning on others, such as tourism. While this government’s foreign policies hold future promise, they must be manifested into something more tangible, he concluded.
According to Anekchai Rueangrattanakorn, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, the Thai government endeavors to bolster national income through proactive economic diplomacy, seeking partnerships with existing partners like the European Union and the Middle East and breaking into new markets like India, Africa, and South America. He further stressed Thailand’s neutrality between China and the US, and the significance of ASEAN’s centrality and neutrality.
Soparat, a social science lecturer at Naraesuan University, suggested the government recognize the need for strengthening security along Thailand’s western and southern borders. Additionally, she highlighted the importance of adhering to international norms and democratic values for solidifying national legitimacy.
Supisarn Bhakdinarinath, deputy leader of the Move Forward Party, suggested the new government promote Thailand’s cultural heritage and unique attributes, such as Thai boxing, Thai cuisine, and locally crafted products. They should also emphasize their rich contribution to the world in terms of heritage sites and innovative tourist attractions to proliferate international visitation.
Public and global anticipation is building up in expectation of what the 61-year-old Prime Minister might achieve following his participation at UNGA78 and when the government might escalate efforts to actualize their foreign policy agenda. Reports by the Bangkok Post suggest the National Security Council’s involvement is essential in negotiating the balance between US and China relations. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for regular updates.