Thailand & China in historic relation move, but other powers?

Buddha in Phutthamonthon (Buddhist park in the...

Buddha in Phutthamonthon (Buddhist park in the Phutthamonthon district, Nakhon Pathom Province of Thailand). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the end of Vietnam War Thailand was in a national security crisis, as betting on the USA to win the war, failed. In the midst of that crisis Perm, the now Privy council of the Thai King, met both China’s and USA leader, at the same time, where subsequently, another Thai army chief, Chaovalit, ignited the first salvo of Chinese artillery on Vietnam, signaling for the country to hands off Thailand. And the USA made available special rights for Thailand to draw arms from the USA arsenal. Years later, two other Thai prime minister, Kriangsak and Chartchai, helped turned the battle field of Indo-China, still a little threatening to Thailand, into a market place.

There is no doubt about it, Thailand and China are close, with even the oil OPEC embargo, seeing China help Thailand with cheap oil.

Things have not changed much. Local press reports something historic between Thailand and China just occurred, meaning the first head of a foreign country addressing the Thai parliament, in some 80 years since the Parliament went into effect. Thai China’s leader addressing the Thai parliament is striking on many level. But namely, the elite establishment in Thailand, has trashed the Thai Parliament to the point that polls said the Thais have lost respect of the Thai Parliament.

But is was incredible, as the Chinese leader addressed the Thai Parliament, there was all cheers and the moment considered a high point of the Thai Parliament.

Several local press reports Chinese Premier Li Keqiang yesterday used the first-ever parliamentary address by a foreign leader to push for greater Chinese involvement in transport infrastructure projects here. Chinese Premier asked Thai lawmakers to support China’s participation in work on rail and transport projects, saying this would promote “good neighbourliness”.

That good Thai and China neighborliness, had started to take shape during the Thaksin administration, who was re-buked by the World Bank and IMF policies, after the Thai financial crisis. And over the years, since Thaksin was ousted, Thailand mainly took a dual track, in its approach to China and the West, and caught in between is the close Thai USA defense establishment, to the extent that JUSMAG, the implementer unit of the USA military assistance to Thailand, is head quartered at the Thai defense establishment complex, and Thai CIA ties goes back decades. Then the West business is strong here in Thailand, and Eurozone and USA important markets. Indeed, Thailand’s very Chinese heritage CP group head, Dhanin, said Yingluck’s foreign policy is correct, in that Thailand can be any country’s friend.

But under that dual track, a philosophy emerged, that China is a close Thailand relative and the West, namely USA, was Thailand’s close friend. Then Singapore iconic figure, Lee Kuan Yew, added a sense of reality to it all, saying Thailand, will likely end up aligning itself with whoever wins in Asia. Then Thailand was designated the ASEAN special relationship builder, as Philippines and Vietnam is highly cautious of China, and Thailand’s industrial might, depends a great deal on Japan, increasingly, like Vietnam and the Philippines, is cautious about China.

Overall, most neutral observer says Thailand is in an envious position, but only if it is able to maintain balancer well, with all parties involved. Most neutral observer also says Thailand has the benefit to play off super-powers for the benefit of Thailand, but the danger is, it will end up with no real friends.

Is Thailand’s current leader, namely Yingluck and Thaksin, in position to strike a course that best benefit Thailand, and yet remain seen as genuine and real to all sides? That is a question that only time will answer.

But one point, that perhaps many like Lee Kuan Yew was shying away from making, when he said Thailand will align with the winner, is that Thaksin, before he was ousted, was taking Thailand, on the road to not just a regional leader, but an Asian leader, charting a course, for Thailand, that both defined Thailand and Asia. The past 10 years of Thailand, with pro-longed internal crisis, have left many Thais, un-able to think of Thailand as an Asian leader anymore, but perhaps, with time, Thailand, will again emerge as a leader of Asia.


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