Ramp up role in the region

Ramp up role in the region

The Srettha administration deserves praise for running a proactive foreign policy that aims to see the country play a leading role in the region. Yet there are critical issues that demand urgent government attention.

Geographically situated in the middle of Southeast Asia, Thailand enjoys a strategic advantage when engaging neighbouring countries and global powers alike. Knowing this benefit, Thai governments have extended their hands to foster cooperation.

The nation's diplomatic policy under Foreign Affairs Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara is no different. His latest move to establish a human corridor for Myanmar civilians fleeing to Thai soil during the civil war indicates Thailand's commitment to addressing the crisis.

Preparations for the corridor will be completed this month. Subsequently, the scheme will be a focal point in enabling the delivery of essential supplies from the Thai Red Cross Society to the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

These supplies, which are meant for displaced populations, will be taken through the 2nd customs checkpoint in Tak's Mae Sot district via the Mae Sot-Myawaddy checkpoint and the 2nd Thai-Myanmar Bridge.

A similar centre will also be created in Myanmar's Karen state to distribute aid to displaced individuals. This initiative, proposed during an Asean meeting in Luang Prabang, Laos, was well received by Asean and Myanmar.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has also assigned Tourism and Sports Minister Sudawan Wangsupakitkosol to work with with the Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV) bloc and Malaysia to explore a joint visa approach similar to Europe's Schengen visa.

This move aims to leverage Thailand's geographical advantage as a tourism hub for travellers across CLMV and Malaysia to create seamless travel in the region.

While acknowledging the autonomy of each country, Mr Srettha emphasises engaging national leaders to advance this initiative.

Thailand recently hosted talks between officials from the United States and China with the aim of reducing tensions between the two superpowers. Agreements reached include commitments to maintain dialogue, manage sensitive issues and align the diplomatic efforts of US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping to restore relations.

However, despite these commendable initiatives, further opportunities remain for Thailand to do more on critical issues. It can still promote human rights in Asean and spearhead environmental efforts, particularly those regarding the Mekong River Basin, such as reducing the impacts of dams on the Mekong River, and cross-boundary PM2.5 air pollution.

Thailand confronts a multitude of challenges that need prudent navigation. Human rights issues encompassing freedom of expression, political dissent and minority rights are a challenge to its international reputation. It is imperative for the government, which is contesting for a seat at the UN Human Rights Council this year, to address these internal concerns while also taking a leading role in regional initiatives combating such issues.

The current proactive diplomatic approaches are a first step forward and should be sustained. Yet additional diplomatic endeavours to promote human rights, sustainability and democracy are essential to garner international acclaim and contribute to the region's advancement.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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