11 July 2024

Thailand’s foreign policy over the past nine years, under former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration, dubbed “quiet diplomacy” by former foreign minister Don Pramudwinai, is irrelevant amid current geopolitical rivalries and complexities and needs to be reviewed, according to the opinions of experts in Thai foreign policy.

In a recent interview with Thai PBS, former permanent secretary at the foreign ministry Sihasak Phuangketkeow said that Thailand has faded from the radar of international diplomacy over the past several years, because of a passive foreign policy which lacks direction, as manifested in its approach to the military junta in Myanmar, which came under heavy criticism from western governments and international human rights organisations.

He also noted that the ASEAN five-point consensus towards Myanmar has failed to convince the junta there to end its crackdown on pro-democracy groups and to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

Former foreign minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon said that, although “quiet diplomacy” is normal practice for some countries, the Thai government must assess whether this policy is working and, if not, it must be changed.

He said that Thailand, during the previous Prayut administration, was viewed by western governments as bending towards China, with the Prayut government being one of the 35 countries which refused to condemn, Russian over its illegal annexation eastern Ukraine, at the UN general assembly in October last year.

Former foreign minister Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai said it is essential that Thailand’s foreign policy be able to cope with the challenges of global volatilities, uncertainties, complexities and ambiguities (VUCA).

Foreign diplomacy is not a distant issue for the people under the present circumstances, as it is an important tool in drivingeconomic benefits for the country and its people, said Dr.Surakiart.

Kiat Sittheeamorn, former vice chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that, in a time of geopolitical rivalry,  which may force Thailand to take a side, Thailand must try to maintain its neutral position based on the benefits to and dignity of the country.

He noted, however, that foreign policy did not figure highly in the general election this year, adding that the current government does not seem to have a clear foreign policy, besides saying that it attaches importance to the use of foreign policy when exploring trade and economic opportunities.