Thailand vows to uphold 'diplomatic neutrality'
Thailand is committed to upholding diplomatic neutrality and the peaceful resolution of disputes in the region and beyond, according to security agencies, denying claims it would automatically side with the US.
United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Bangkok for security talks last week. Prior to Gen Austin's arrival in the kingdom, some critics said Thailand would side with the US in geopolitical matters, especially those involving China and Russia.
However, the National Security Council (NSC) has maintained the government prioritises neutrality in international affairs and security policies.
NSC secretary-general Gen Supoj Malaniyom said the government supports solving international issues through a peaceful approach that respects humanitarian principles.
Referring to Gen Austin's visit last week, he said global and regional conflicts were discussed. Gen Austin and Thai officials discussed the Russia-Ukraine war and the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
"Although [the visit] was normal, it was closely watched because of the global situation and regional conflicts, which also affect Thailand," Gen Supoj said.
Meanwhile, Gen Chalermpol Srisawat, chief of the defence forces, said the Senior Leader Dialogue (SLD) of military forces in the Indo-Pacific region two years ago signed the Joint Vision Statement 2020, which set out alliance relationship parameters.
The Royal Thai Armed Forces are fleshing out details of the agreement.
"This is a rough agreement. If there is to be a cooperation in the future, it will be taken up by the Senior Staff Talk (SST).
"We don't take sides or lean towards the US. The armed forces' policy is consistent with the Defence Ministry's directive that follows agreements in education, military training and assistance to disaster victims, which have nothing to do with deployment of troops," he said.
The defence forces chief said Thailand is a friend to every country including the US and China.
Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich said Gen Austin's visit agenda included exchanges of views over regional security issues such as South China Sea conflicts and unrest in Myanmar.
Gen Kongcheep also said Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told Gen Austin that Thailand has long adhered to supporting the role of the US in complying with international laws, including saving Myanmar refugees.
A military source said the US wanted Thailand to join the sanctions against the military government in Myanmar and heap pressure on the regime.
However, Thailand has reiterated its position of remaining neutral over the issue and offered assistance to ease the problem through peaceful means.
Gen Austin's arrival in Thailand was met with resistance from local demonstrators who feared the US would drag the country into polarising conflicts in the world.
During his visit, Gen Austin tweeted: "We do not seek confrontation or conflict."
"We'll defend our interests without flinching. But we'll also work toward our vision for this region -- one of expanding security, not one of growing division," he wrote.
His visit came amid claims the US was building a new consulate in Chiang Mai for covert military purposes including supplying weapons to rebels in Myanmar. The US embassy in Thailand flatly denied the allegation.