Summary of Key Developments on Thailand and Thai-U.S. relations
- The Government of Thailand is committed to the Roadmap toward a more sustainable democracy with emphasis on the rule of law, good governance and stronger checks and balances to prevent abuse of power and rampant corruption of the past.
- The first draft of the new Constitution has been completed. It has four key objectives: 1) empowerment of the people; 2) stronger checks and balances system; 3) address social inequalities, including those relating to gender; and 4) create an environment conducive for reconciliation. It was debated in the National Reform Council for a week in April 2015.
- The Constitution Drafting Committee is now reviewing the draft Constitution taking into account views and recommendations from the Cabinet, the National Reform Council, political parties and groups, and various stakeholders, including local community groups.
- Main political parties and groups have been able to convey their views through various channels. Most recently, on 18-19 June 2015, representatives from main political parties and groups were invited to exchange views about the political reform and draft Constitution.
- A national referendum on the draft Constitution is scheduled to take place in January 2016. Then, organic laws would have to be promulgated and necessary preparations would be made for the general elections which could take around August 2016.
- Experiences of various countries were taken into account. On 3 December 2014, a symposium “On the Path to Reform” was held in Bangkok with participation from experts on political reform and reconciliation from many countries. In May 2015, constitutional experts from France and Germany were invited to share experiences and lessons learned from France and Germany on political conflict resolution and reconciliation.
- The Thai economy is on course toward recovery. Growth rate forecast for 2015 is expected to be around 3-4 % – a major improvement in comparison to 0.9 % in 2014.
- Government spending, private investment and increased tourism are main drivers.
- Major economic restructuring is underway to increase Thailand’s long-term competitiveness with emphasis on promoting R&D, innovation, human resource development, digital economy and Special Economic Zones.
- Infrastructure will be upgraded through the 8-year plan (2015-2022) covering roads, rails, waterways, ports and airports developments worth more than $70 billion. This will make Thailand a hub of the ASEAN Economic Community of over 600 million people.
- Thailand remains a business-friendly country. Foreign direct investment continues to increase. The year 2014 was a record-breaking year with an approximate value of $62.77 billion and over 3,000 investment promotion applications.
Thai-U.S. Economic Relations
- Thai-U.S. economic relations are deep and broad dating back 182 years.
- Trade relationship is on an upward trend. As of 2014, the U.S. is Thailand’s 3rd largest trading partner. From January to April 2015, the U.S. is number one export destination for Thailand, while U.S. ranks number 3 in terms of source of import for Thailand.
- Investment relationship is also surging ahead. As of 2014, the U.S. is Thailand’s 2nd largest investor with about $17 billion in FDI, while the total amount of U.S. investment in Thailand is about $50 billion.
- The American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand said the U.S. investment in Thailand is about 25% of the total U.S. investment in ten countries in Southeast Asia which is larger than the combined U.S. investment in China, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
- In 2014 alone, the Thai Government’s approval of applications for investment promotion from American companies increased nearly 5-fold.
- Thai companies have steadily increased their investment in the U.S. in a variety of sectors.
Thai-U.S. Strategic Partnership
- Thailand is U.S.’ oldest ally in Asia and a major Non-NATO ally. Thailand has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. in many conflicts, such as the Korean War and the Vietnam War, as well as in many peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations.
- Thailand and the U.S. have cooperated on a broad range of issues from security, intelligence and defense to trade and investment, anti-terrorism and anti-piracy, education, science and technology, disaster relief, human trafficking and other transnational crimes, combating epidemics and addressing climate change.
- Building on Thailand’s strategic location and major role in ASEAN, strong Thai-U.S. partnership has served as a key pillar supporting the Rebalance to Asia policy.
- The annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand has grown from a bilateral Thai-U.S. exercise into the largest multinational military exercise in the Asia-Pacific where networks among regional military forces are forged, and interoperability strengthened for both traditional and non-traditional security challenges.
- Recently, Thai and the U.S. military forces worked together to bring humanitarian assistance to Nepal, using an airbase in Thailand as an intermediate staging base for U.S. aircrafts. The same airbase was used by the U.S. to provide relief following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Both military forces worked together to help Myanmar in the relief effort in the aftermath of the Cyclone Nargis. Navy and air forces of both countries also worked together on aerial patrol to save lives of migrants in the Indian Ocean.
- Thailand is the home of the International Law Enforcement Academy for Asia – a joint effort by Thailand and the U.S. to promote closer cooperation and capacity building among law enforcement agencies throughout Asia on a wide range of issues, such as counter-terrorism operations, cybersecurity, money laundering, human and drug trafficking.
- Thailand is at the forefront in Southeast Asia in combating human trafficking, people smuggling and forced labor, and can be a strong partner of the U.S. in this area. Thailand is already working in close partnership with regional countries in the Mekong Sub-region, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Australia, to strengthen law enforcement, judicial and intelligence collaboration to better address these common challenges. The ASEAN Convention and Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children were recently adopted. Thailand has been taking the leading role from the start in pushing these two regional frameworks forward. They will serve as the first ASEAN-wide regional framework and mechanism for greater collaboration in terms of investigation, prosecution and victims assistance.
- Thailand is now working with the U.S. to strengthen non-proliferation regime in Thailand and the broader ASEAN region through cooperation with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction.
- Thailand and the U.S. are working to advance the global health security agenda. In May 2015, Thailand brought together experts from 24 countries from across the Asia-Pacific to strengthen collaboration in prevention and control of diseases and health hazards. Both countries are also working to tackle drug-resistant malaria in the Mekong Sub-region and conduct researches on vaccines for other drug-resistant tropical diseases.
- There are about 300,000 Thais living in the U.S. States with large Thai communities are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Nevada, Georgia and Arizona.
- Over 700,000 Americans visited Thailand in 2014, while U.S. has continued to be a country of choice for Thai students and young professionals.
- More than 5,200Peace Corps volunteers have served in Thailand since the program was established in 1962. Today, 159 Peace Corps volunteers are now working in more than 40 provinces throughout Thailand to connect Thais and Americans. They are also helping to implement the Let Girls Learn initiative for First Lady.
22 June 2015