U.S. diplomatic drift and Thailand

US, Thai officials planning Cobra Gold exercise despite May coup – Stars and Stripes, October 10, 2014
The United States and Thailand will scale down next year’s Cobra Gold military exercise because of the rift in relations that followed Thailand’s military coup earlier this year.
“In light of the current political situation, the U.S. government has reduced the scale of the exercise and increased its focus on non-lethal activities, such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said in a statement Friday…

[Those who support the junta’s move to create permanent military oversight over civilian politics can feel lucky the coup occurred during a U.S. administration that is not much interested in foreign policy. Other than this statement from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, the U.S. has seemed little interested in exerting any real pressure on Thailand.

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney has perhaps been sending messages of her own with highly publicized visits to Red Shirt groups and media outlets like Prachathai. These visits have been roundly ridiculed in Thai social media by those who support the coup.

With Kenney now returning to the U.S., Thailand will be without a U.S. ambassador for the foreseeable future and this will further underscore to the generals that the U.S. is disinterested in Thai politics. It means disappointment for dissidents who dreamed that other nations would be interested in putting pressure on the junta.

Meanwhile, China is moving fast to improve relations with Thailand. The U.S.’s status as a superpower that can project its power is based on good relations with nations that allow military bases or ports of call. Thus it is critical for China to cultivate good relations with other nations–not just engage in nationalistic bullying over disputed territory.

As Thailand is one of the few nations in the region that has no land claims or boundary disputes with China, it makes the nation an inviting possible partner for China. This may be a quixotic notion given Thailand’s long history as a U.S. ally, but China is certainly going to try to capitalize on the U.S.’s foreign policy drift in the region.]

Update: January 27, 2015 – US slams junta: Impeachment “politically driven,” Yingluck targeted while democracy interrupted

2Bangkok.com Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

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