11 July 2024

When Thailand decided recently to join BRICS, the international community was taken aback because the announcement came hot on the heels of its submission to be considered for membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Bangkok-based diplomats were perplexed by the timing of the decisions, as they appeared juxtaposed.

The Pheu Thai-led government was confident that it would be admitted as a member of BRICS by October, when the BRICS summit is held in Kazan, Russia. That is no longer on the cards.

Foreign Minister Maris Sangiampongsa attended the BRICS Ministerial Council meeting in Nizhny Novgorod as the guest of the chair and discovered that BRICS is now in the process of drafting the terms of reference and modalities for new members joining as partners.

Although Thailand has applied to be a new member, this is unlikely to be considered anytime soon.

At least 30 countries are on the waiting list. Thailand is the first country to apply from the Southeast Asian region.

Indonesia earlier expressed an desire to join but later changed its mind. At the council, Maris said that BRICS is a key driver of the ongoing transformation resulting from a multitude of geopolitical challenges.

He said Thailand supports the evolving world order that is underpinned by a strong commitment to multilateralism.

“It must also aim at realising a system of global governance that is truly inclusive and equitable,” he added.

He also commended the role of BRICS in upholding the interests of emerging and developing economies, while moving the global economy towards one that is more dynamic and inclusive.

Expressing the desire to join BRICS, Maris pointed out that its long-standing positions on development, diplomacy, and security issues are both consistent with and complementary to cooperation with the BRICS framework.

As a BRICS member, Thailand, Maris added, can build bridges to connect and cooperate across regions and platforms.

Thailand will make BRICS more inclusive, more interconnected, and more impactful in shaping an emerging world order that is stable and prosperous for all.

After his return, he told the media that the council’s feedback was positive about the Thai application.

“Thailand has a unique character as we are friends with every country and we have no enemies. We can bridge developing countries with the BRICS members,” he said adding that the council’s members supported Thailand’s application to become a BRICS as early as possible.

However, the application could be delayed as many countries have applied for BRICS membership since the bloc opened up last year and approved five additional members.

A diplomat from a BRICS country said that Thailand is wise to apply for BRICS now because it will take time as there is a long waiting list.

“Thailand is a moderate country and has a moderate voice, which will enhance its appeal to BRICS,” he said.

Against this background, Thailand also applied for OECD membership in February. The Paris-based international organization will consider whether to consider Thailand’s application soon.

The Pheu Thai government hopes that OECD membership would enhance opportunities to attract more direct foreign investment and improve the country’s overall trade standards and governance.

With the membership in BRICS and OECD, the government hopes the country’s international profile will be further raised because of its political neutrality and economic potential and further democratization.

The current government wants to break away from the trap caused by the coup in 2014 and its subsequent military-led government. Joining two major international organizations almost simultaneously also indicate Thailand’s foreign policy trajectory.

Specifically, it shows that Thailand chooses no side and will stay independent.

It is still too early to assess the impacts of Thailand’s latest diplomatic moves as the current domestic situation remains fluid. Any political shift in the future at the home front will certainly affect the country’s diplomatic postures.

But for now, Thailand has to wait as the two rival organizations evaluate Thailand’s economic situation as well as the strategic values that its membership could add.

Kavi Chongkittavorn//File photo : On June 11, Thai FM Maris Sangiampongsa attended “BRICS Dialogue with Developing Countries” during “BRICS Ministers of Foreign Affairs/International Relations Meeting” Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.//Thai FM