Thailand in race for UNSC seat

Thailand in race for UNSC seat

The Security Council has five permanent members, plus 10 temporary seats rotated among the world's regions every two years. (Photo via UN press office)
The Security Council has five permanent members, plus 10 temporary seats rotated among the world's regions every two years. (Photo via UN press office)

Military-ruled Thailand stands a "good chance" over oil-rich Kazakhstan to secure a seat among the 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at a vote in New York on Wednesday, a Thai diplomat said.

Bangkok and Astana have been campaigning to win a two-thirds vote from 193 member states at a secret ballot to replace outgoing Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific quota, as five of the 10 members will finish their two-year term in December.

"It's a 50:50 draw, but we stand a good chance as we have secured support from Washington among others," a member of the campaign who declined to be identified told the Bangkok Post.

Thailand, which held this position previously in 1985-1986, has had a long history of engagement with the UN since its admission in December 1946, hosting more than 30 regional UN-affiliated agencies in its capital.

But its international reputation has been deteriorating since the May 2014 coup; its civil and political rights indexes and rankings have been relegated to the bottom or near the bottom, thanks to the "despotic actions" of the ruling junta and its chief Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, said International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

"In October 2014, Thailand failed to secure a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. The fact it lost the election to Qatar, a country with a highly questionable human rights record, speaks for itself," said FIDH president Karim Lahidji.

But a Bangkok-based European ambassador with experience at UN settings said elections to UN bodies are mainly dominated by "horse trading" and do not always have anything to do with the candidates' political or democratic consistency.

"All UN member states consider elections in an overall context as they make deals. If you vote for us to this body we will vote for you to that body. You can bet that both Kazakh and Thai diplomats have run around 'buying and selling' votes to different UN bodies," said the ambassador.

For Kazakhstan, a former member of the Soviet Union, decisions to give up the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal and close the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site have enabled the country to campaign with moral authority for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Kazakhstan was instrumental in establishing a nuclear weapons free-zone, with the support of all the major nuclear powers, in Central Asia, analysts said.

Friendly with major players such as Russia and China, the Central Asian nation has opened new embassies in Africa and Latin America and developed formal links with various regional organisations.

Other diplomats said the race is close, but Washington may find it more convenient to support a like-minded country like Thailand rather than "getting the second Russia to the UNSC".

"It's cynical but true. The US has supported, does support and will support many juntas around the world," an ambassador from the Middle East said.

Chaiwat Khamchoo, Chulalongkorn University's professor of political science, said a Thai loss at the UNSC race will give the junta's opponents more political ammunition to shoot at the government.

In all, the UN General Assembly will select five new non-permanent Security Council members to replace Spain, Venezuela, New Zealand, Malaysia and Angola in January. Thailand and Kazakhstan are vying to replace Malaysia in the Asia-Pacific seat.

The vote will probably take place Wednesday morning, Thailand time.

This year, the Security Council elections are being held for the first time in June instead of October in order to give more time for new members to prepare.

To be elected, a candidate must receive the support of at least two thirds of the nations taking part in the vote at the UN General Assembly. If all 193 members take part, a country would need 129 votes to enter the Security Council.

Kazakhstan is the only candidate that has never held a seat on the Security Council. If elected, the Central Asian nation would become the first former Soviet republic to have a vote in the UN's most important decision-making body.

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