U.S. seeking ways to build better cooperation with Thailand

pix2The United States expressed a desire to build closer cooperation with Thailand during a meeting last week between Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai and they may hold a fifth strategic dialogue with the Kingdom soon, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

The Deputy Secretary of State met with the Thai Foreign Minister in New York against the backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly meeting, where their respective bosses President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha addressed the conclave. The President and the Prime Minister met during the Leaders Summit on Peacekeeping and warmly shook hands.

The U.S. has maintained good relations with Thailand, its oldest treaty ally in Asia, although U.S. diplomats and military officials have admitted that bilateral cooperation has not been at its fullest possible level because Thailand is not currently governed by a democratically elected administration. U.S. laws require its government to cut military assistance to countries where militaries have intervened in the political sector.

Prime Minister Prayut has said that democratic elections for a new government will take place in 2017, following the drafting and approval of a new constitution and other reforms, and reiterated that point to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Several diplomats, analysts and business organizations have urged the U.S. to increase its cooperation with its old ally and engage more closely with its leadership. The meetings in New York last week were positive signs that the U.S. administration may be heeding that advice.

“The U.S. gives importance to Thailand as a long-time partner and wants to expand its cooperation with the Kingdom in all aspects for bilateral and regional benefit,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said after the meeting.

A new U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Glyn Davies, arrived in Bangkok this month, and Sek said that Davies had good intentions and a good understanding of Thailand, qualifications that will help promote better relations.

He added that the U.S. understands the important roles Thailand plays in the region and in the U.N. system, and so Washington wants to increase cooperation with the Kingdom for mutual interests, he said.

Thailand has long been a strong security partner for the United States in the region, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in armed conflicts and in peacekeeping, relief operations and humanitarian missions. Despite being only a medium-sized economy, Thailand’s open and free market system has always made it a logical trading and investment partner for America.

The Deputy Secretary of State raised the prospect of holding a Fifth United States-Thailand Strategic Dialogue in the near future. The last was held in 2012 with then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The dialogue allows both sides to find ways to expand their strategic partnership, which Secretary of State Clinton referred to as “enduring.” The dialogue covers “political, security, and economic cooperation and the commitment the two countries share to promote peace, security, and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific,” according to the State Department.



Thailand Focus October 5th, 2015
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