Thursday, June 26, 2014

The West might regret forcing Thailand into a corner

The United States and European Union have responded to the coup by announcing they will downgrade their relations with Thailand.

Individual countries that have also issued strongly worded statements against the coup include the UK, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. A closer look reveals that the Europeans and Americans have joined forces to apply pressure on Thailand to hold an election as quickly as possible, release all political detainees, and ensure freedom of expression. The penalty for not doing so will be the imposition of more measures to isolate Thailand from the international community.

This international pressure against Thailand is totally unjustified. Thailand has so far done nothing to harm the broad interests of the US or the EU. Business leaders representing the foreign chambers of commerce in Thailand have expressed confidence in the direction being taking to restore calm to the country.

Without the coup, political polarisation would have got worse and threatened to tear apart the fabric of the social order. The authorities continue to discover caches of war weapons and ammunition around the country, stockpiled by hard-core supporters of the previous government. These weapons were intended to be used to create violence in Bangkok by militia following what is generally known as the Khon Kaen model. Through this arrangement, the armed rebels would stage a takeover of the 20 provinces in the Northeast in defiance of the Bangkok centre. No country in the world would allow this to happen. Isn't this model similar to what the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is trying to achieve in the war-torn nations of Iraq and Syria?

By pressuring Thailand to hold an election without first forging political reforms, the US and the EU are effectively asking that Thailand remain a divided nation. A weak and polarised Thailand could, indeed, benefit the US and EU. It would fit world powers' traditional divide-and-rule formula.

The blatant interference in our internal affairs by superpowers in the Western world is unacceptable. As a sovereign and independent nation, Thailand has every right to put its house in order in its own way. Public opinion is mostly in favour of the coup, which has effectively restored order and ended the bloodshed. Now, the Thai people are looking forward to a reform process that hopefully will lay the foundation for political, economic and social stability. All now depends on the commitment and the capability of the military regime to guide Thailand through this transition.

It is likely that US and EU relations with Thailand will deteriorate over the next three to six months. This is unfortunate. A slackening of ties would also hurt the overall standing of the Asean, with Thailand being at the core of the regional bloc. Other Asean members have so far stood idle while Thailand is bullied. If the US and EU continue to play hardball politics with Thailand, and Asean proves to be a paper tiger, Thailand might have no choice but to strengthen relations with China or Russia. The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - are eager to expand their membership and should ready to welcome Thailand into the fold. If Thailand is driven into a corner, it will have no choice but to walk a new path in its international relations. Bangkok Post

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