Closer cooperation forged at U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue
Senior Thai and United States diplomats met in Bangkok last week for the fifth Thai-U.S. Strategic Dialogue, a forum in which the two long-standing allies forged closer cooperation on a broad range of issues affecting both countries. This was the first Strategic Dialogue the U.S. has participated in under the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Daniel Russel, who represented the United States in his capacity as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, called the meeting “productive”. The U.S. emphasized their desire to see Thailand successfully reform the country in all aspects in order to once again play a strong role in the region, as Thailand has always done. The U.S. is ready to help Thailand deal with the “global issues and regional challenges” confronting the Kingdom.
Among those issues are human trafficking and combating terrorism. Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai said that Russel acknowledged Thailand’s efforts to solve the trafficking problem, which has included the arrests of military, police and political figures. For his part Russel stressed the desire of the U.S. to see Thailand play a leadership role in the region and beyond.
“The United States is a friend of Thailand. We stand with the Thai people. We stand with the Thai nation. We want to see Thailand unified, stable, secured, prospered and influential. Thailand has important roles both in the region and on international stage,” Russel said.
The resumption of the Strategic Dialogue represented a narrowing of the diplomatic distance between the United States and its oldest ally in Asia that emerged after a severe political and social crisis in Thailand resulted in a suspension of electoral democracy in May 2014. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pledged that his administration will build a more sustainable democracy with elections on the drawing board for 2017.
Russel paid a courtesy call on PM Prayut at Government House, where he said he listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s views.
“He created an opportunity … for me to engage and share directly with him our hopes, our goals and our concerns with regard to the political situation in Thailand and the prospect of rolling U.S.-Thai cooperation,” Russel said.
“There are a number of issues that we may not come to agreement on. One thing that we do agree on is the importance of the Thai people charting a path to a stable, secure future [that] leads to civilian-led democratic government,” he said after the six-hour Strategic Dialogue with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials.
During the meeting the two sides also discussed a possible agenda for a summit between the U.S. and the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take place in the U.S. in February.