11 July 2024

Thailand abstained from the UN resolution to condemn Russia’s annexation of eastern regions of Ukraine last week because it wants its voice on the crisis to be heard, according to Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

Don also dismissed speculation that Thailand’s abstention was designed to please Russian President Vladimir Putin who has reportedly confirmed attendance at the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to be held in Bangkok next month.

“It has nothing to do with whether or not President Putin will attend the summit,” Don told Thai PBS World.

Thailand was among 35 countries that abstained from the resolution. Laos and Vietnam were two other ASEAN countries that did so.

Speaking at length for the first time on the issue, Don said the decision to abstain was a calculated diplomatic move “to gain attention” from the international community on Thailand’s stand on the crisis in Ukraine.

“By abstaining, we have made our voice heard. It brought the spotlight on Thailand,” he said, adding that Thailand has its own peace initiative for the crisis in Ukraine that it wants to share with the international community.

He said had Thailand voted in favour of the resolution to condemn Russia, “its voice would have been drowned among those of 134 other countries that voted for it.”

Echoing the statement by Thai permanent representative to the UN Suriya Jindawong to explain Thailand’s abstention, the minister said condemning Russia would be counter-productive. “Condemnations would not help move things forward,” he said.

It was not the first time that Thailand abstained in a vote related to the war in Ukraine. In April this year, Thailand was among 58 nations that  abstained from a vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. But it did vote in favour of a resolution condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine in March.

With the war in its eighth month, Don said Thailand’s economy has been acutely impacted and it wants to help contribute to efforts to end the crisis.  Don called for a serious commitment by all parties concerned for a peace process to start.

He said the three upcoming major international forums in Asia next month should provide what he described as a “golden opportunity” to find common grounds to stop the war in Ukraine.  He was referring to the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, the G-20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok.

“These forums should provide a golden opportunity for all concerned to discuss how they can end the Ukraine crisis,” he said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has confirmed that President Xi Jinping of China and President Putin will attend the G-20 Summit. Both are also expected to attend the APEC Summit.

While US President Joe Biden will also attend the summit in Bali, he is reportedly skipping the APEC meeting and will send Vice President Kamala Harris in his place.

Thailand’s stand on Ukraine very much mirrors its position toward Myanmar.  Unlike some of its ASEAN neighbours, Thailand has avoided appearing openly critical of the military junta that seized power in Myanmar in February last year.

Don has told Thai PBS World that Thailand’s so-called “quiet diplomacy” would be more effective in facilitating efforts to find a peaceful way out of the crisis in Myanmar.

By Thepchai Yong