Experts urge govt to remain neutral

Experts urge govt to remain neutral

Two experts on international affairs are urging the government to maintain its neutrality in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, arguing that choosing sides will have an adverse impact on energy prices and the wider economy.

Adul Kamlaithong, an independent scholar on Russia, said the war will undoubtedly have an impact on fuel prices in Thailand, given Russia and Ukraine's status as major energy exporters.

"While some would argue that Thailand gets the majority of its oil supplies from Saudi Arabia and Iran, the conflict will affect prices in the global market," he said.

With the conflict raging, he argued, neither country will be able to sustain their production output, saying the reduced supply will drive prices up.

He said while government subsidies will cushion the conflict's impact on consumers, such measures aren't sustainable in the long run.

"The government relies too much on crude oil. The time is ripe for the government to start looking at alternative energy sources, to prevent [price spikes] from happening in the future," he said.

With airlines banned from and/or avoiding the airspace around the war zone, many -- especially those based in Europe -- are temporarily reconsidering their flight schedules.

This, according to Mr Adul, will result in decreased tourism arrivals to Thailand, especially from Russia and Ukraine.

He noted that since Ukraine was a major exporter of wheat, the conflict's impact will spill over into other areas, including food production and livestock farming.

"Businesses will have to pay more for animal feed, as Ukraine won't be able to export the wheat Thai farmers use to feed their livestock," he said.

Considering the widespread impact the conflict has on the Thai economy, Mr Adul urged the government to refrain from choosing sides.

"If we are neutral, the relationship between Thailand, Ukraine and Russia will not be affected," he said.

Meanwhile, Pongpon Chuencharoen, a columnist on Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States' affairs, said the conflict will affect Thailand in many aspects.

"Sanctions imposed on Russia have caused the ruble to plunge in value against the US dollar. Ordinary Russians are having trouble getting enough cash out to use for day-to-day activities, let alone for travelling abroad," he said.

Thai investors will find it hard to conduct business in Russia, especially with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and US banning several Russian banks from the Swift network, he said.

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