Ex-PM Abhisit questions kingdom's neutral stance

Ex-PM Abhisit questions kingdom's neutral stance

Abhisit Vejjajiva
Abhisit Vejjajiva

Ex-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday voiced his concern over the government's "conservative" foreign policy approach, saying Thailand should instead use its strengths to play a greater role in solving global issues.

Speaking during the "Thai Foreign Policy Challenges in 2023 and Beyond" forum organised by Thai PBS and the Asia News Network, Mr Abhisit, who is a member of the Democrat Party, said the country's foreign policy is too conservative, meaning Thailand plays it safe on the diplomatic front to avoid friction with other countries.

"It seems Thailand does a lot in global politics, but if we look from outside, Thailand does not do that much," he said, comparing results of the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Bangkok with that of the G20 meetings in Indonesia.

According to Japan's Kyodo News, G20 leaders last week managed to adopt a declaration denouncing Russia's war in Ukraine, following differences between Western democracies and Russia over the description of the war.

Meanwhile, at the conclusion of the Apec Summit in Bangkok on Saturday, not all Apec leaders agreed to strongly condemn Moscow over the war, Kyodo said.

"International events like the Apec summit are a golden opportunity for Thailand to show its active role in the region, but Thailand chose not to do so," Mr Abhisit said.

He said Thailand should revise its neutral status and engage with the world in a positive manner.

"We should use [our] strength to create proactive foreign diplomacy," he said.

"For example, we are located in a strategic area in the region," he added. "We can be the bridge between two conflicted countries such as China and the United States as we have a strong bond with both countries."

Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand's former foreign affairs permanent secretary, said the current "conservative" foreign policy has made the country forfeit its strategic significance.

Therefore, Thailand should be more active in expressing its stance on global politics, he said.

"Regarding the conflict between the United States and China, Thailand needs to realise that it cannot live without China, but [it must still] stand up to China and the US," he said.

"As a neighbour of Myanmar's, we can help lead Myanmar to democracy," he added. "[It presents] a great opportunity for Thailand to show it cares about Myanmar."

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