Fixing flaws on the path to democracy
The brand new Ambassador to the United States, Pisan Manawapat, presented his credentials to US President Barack Obama Monday, asking for understanding and support
published : 24 Feb 2015 at 05:04
writer: Ambassador Pisan Manawapat
The new Ambassador to the United States, Pisan Manawapat, presented his credentials to US President Barack Obama Monday, asking for understanding and support
In written remarks presented to the president prior to his meeting, the ambassador outlines six key areas where Thai-US ties can be enhanced and points out Thailand's goal of returning to a more solid path towards sustainable and functioning democracy - a goal that deserves understanding and support from international friends, especially the United States.
- Main news story: Ambassador presents plan to Obama
Here are excerpts of the ambassador's written remarks.
Mr President: One hundred and eighty-two years is a true testament of the long-standing relations and enduring friendship between Thailand and the United States. As the US's oldest treaty ally in Asia, our relationship has grown from strength to strength and today encompasses a wide range of areas, including security and defence, trade and investment, science, technology, social and people-to-people connectivity.
Our shared commitment to ideals and values, such as democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights, humanitarianism, and an open economy, has reinforced our partnership and constitutes the solid foundation for our close cooperation. For Thailand, this commitment remains unwavering in spite of challenges we are facing from unfolding domestic political developments.
We take note of your view that democracy needs to be returned to Thailand quickly. We are proceeding along the path set out in the announced roadmap and implementing necessary reforms to prevent the country from sliding back to the state of political paralysis, government dysfunction, rampant corruption, and disregard for the rule of law.
The process of drafting, conducting consultations on, and enacting the new constitution will be completed by September this year. Subsequently, multi-party elections are expected to be held by early next year.
Our goal is to get Thailand back on a more solid path toward sustainable and functioning democracy, with good governance, transparency and accountability. These steps and goals deserve understanding and support from our international friends, especially the United States, because only with democratic rule without the major flaws of the recent past will Thailand be able to emerge stronger and hence an even more able partner to other countries in the region and to the United States.
Mr President, as your Strategic Rebalancing policy is moving forward, and with the realisation of the Asean Economic Community - one of the largest markets in the world - less than a year away, our two countries and peoples, as well as our partners in the region and beyond, are offered tremendous opportunities which we can work together to harness. Allow me to state certain key areas where our strategic partnership could further serve our mutual interest and that of the region and beyond.
No security issues are more important than human security. No Thai government of the past has put more focus and resources into addressing the plight of victims of all forms of human trafficking, forced labour, child labour and child sexual exploitation than the current government whose commitment at the highest level has been noted by the US side.
Key pieces of legislation have been or are being amended to tighten enforcement and enhance protection for witnesses and officials working on human trafficking cases.
We are also working hard to reduce risks of workers, particularly in the fisheries sector, of falling victims to trafficking and exploitation. More is being done, in particular, on law enforcement and prosecution, including where state officials are corrupt and complicit in the crimes.
Combating other transnational crimes, such as drug trafficking and trafficking in wildlife, money-laundering and cyber threats, is also our common priority that requires greater resolve and action given growing connectivity, particularly in the region.
Realising the strategic significance of our location as a lynchpin to mainland Southeast Asia connecting to southern China and western India, Thailand will continue to work actively and also more strategically with countries in the region and with the United States to tackle these issues.
On combating international terrorism, Thailand will work with countries in the region and others around the world to promote the voices of moderates and advocate interfaith and intercultural dialogue to foster an environment of mutual understanding, tolerance, peace and respect among faiths.
We are also working at tackling the root causes that make young people susceptible to radical causes through development projects at home and in other developing countries. Besides excellent intelligence sharing, we can do more to stop the flow of foreign fighters and de-legitimise extremist ideology.
Global health security
With our human resources and health research capacity, Thailand is your natural partner in efforts to address the concerns and challenges to global health security, including under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).
As a leading country on the National Laboratory System and on Workforce Development under the GHSA's "Prevent, Detect and Respond" action packages, Thailand will host a Meeting on the Global Health Security Agenda, Strengthening Workforce Development and the National Laboratory System in East Asia and Pacific Region in May. We will also play an active role as a contributing country on Antimicrobial Resistance.
At the same time, with expertise in both our civilian and defence authorities, we look forward to further working with the United States to address not only the pressing threat from Ebola at its source but also other pandemics and infectious diseases that are persistently taking a toll on human lives, such as HIV/Aids and malaria.
The US Army/Royal Thai Army Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) is but one example of our close collaboration to advance common public health goals, including vaccine research.
I personally look forward to working with US agencies including the USAID, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Defence, as we move forward with initiatives such as those to tackle drug-resistant malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion.
This government is determined to do its utmost to mitigate the impact of climate change at home by development and use of clean energy and promoting energy efficiency. We have set national targets to increase the proportion of renewable and alternative energy by 25% of total energy consumption by the year 2021, and to reduce final energy use and energy intensity by 25% by the year 2030.
I look forward to connecting Thailand's efforts to the Green Climate Fund, in which - through your recently declared US$3 billion contribution - the United States has taken leadership, along with other donors, to support resilient and low-carbon development around the world.
With the impact of climate change contributing to, among other challenges, frequent natural disasters, there is the need to further develop cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. As reflected in the just concluded Cobra Gold military exercise, Thailand is ready to work with the United States and others in the region to enhance capability, preparedness and efficiency in this critical area.
Thailand also values our collective goals and efforts within the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) to promote sustainable development and address the risk posed by climate change and other challenges to the ecosystem and the livelihood of people in the Mekong River Basin. In this regard, the partnership between our two countries is critical to the success of the LMI.
Our trade and investment has brought mutual benefit, creating jobs and generating incomes both in Thailand and the United States. The recent visit of more than 70 delegates from member companies of the US-Asean Business Council to Thailand in early November 2014 underscored the confidence and interest that the American business community has in Thailand.
The current Thai government continues to pursue an open economic policy and is now making necessary reforms - including tax, customs and transparency in government procurement - to create a more business-friendly environment, which will be beneficial to US and other foreign businesses. This includes the ongoing anti-corruption effort, which is a top priority in the government's reform agenda and is supported by all sectors in the society.
Furthermore, Thailand is the gateway to Asean - the centre of the world's most dynamic and strongest economic growth area. Asean receives almost US$100 billion of US goods and services exports, which support directly or indirectly more than 560,000 American jobs. Asean is also the number one destination for US investment in Asia.
Science and technology
Our Bilateral Agreement Related to Scientific and Technical Cooperation, signed in August 2013, provides a key framework for agencies on both sides to explore areas of mutual interest - ranging from research collaboration, energy, biodiversity, national laboratories, STEM education, and other exchanges. The recent visit to Thailand by the US science envoy Dr Geraldine Richmond in January 2015 also constituted another step forward - with additional potential areas identified including women in science and health-related research.
Thailand looks forward to doing more with the United States especially through such initiatives as the Equal Futures Partnership (EFP), the Women's Entrepreneurial Centres of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE) under the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI), as well as the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), which you launched in 2013. I would like to urge that more efforts be made to get as many Muslim youth especially from southernmost provinces of Thailand to be given opportunity to participate in these programmes.
Pisan Manawapat is Thailand's Ambassador to the United States.
A Government House worker climbs a pole to hoist an American flag in preparation for US President Barack Obama’s visit to Thailand in 2012. CHANAT KATANYU