Thailand has abstained in a United Nations vote condemning the Russian annexation of four regions of Ukraine, saying the “increased politicisation of international principles” has become “counterproductive” to efforts to find peace.
The resolution on Wednesday in the UN General Assembly drew 143 votes in favour and five against — by Russia, Syria, Belarus, North Korea and Nicaragua — while 35 countries abstained. The latter also included China, India, South Africa and Pakistan despite a major US diplomatic effort to seek clearer condemnation of Moscow.
US President Joe Biden said the vote sent a “clear message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who annexed four Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine last month after public referenda dismissed by most other countries as fraudulent.
The resolution called on all states, the UN and international organisations not to recognise any of Russia’s annexation claims and demanded the immediate reversal of its annexation declaration.
On Monday, the UN rejected Russian efforts hold a secret ballot on the matter. A majority of member countries elected to hold the vote in public.
The vote showed Russia that it “cannot erase a sovereign state from the map”, Mr Biden said in a White House statement.
“By attacking the core tenets of the UN Charter, Russia is tearing at the very foundations of international peace and security,” the statement said. “The stakes of this conflict are clear to all — and the world has sent a clear message in response.”
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, had urged all nations to send a message that the world “will not tolerate seizing a neighbour’s land by force.”
“Today it is Russia invading Ukraine. But tomorrow it could be another nation whose territory is violated. It could be you. You could be next. What would you expect from this chamber?” she said.
The vote was largely the same — with a net two more votes against Russia — as when the General Assembly in March condemned the initial invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement elaborating on its decision to abstain, the Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN said: “It has long been Thailand’s long-standing and consistent policy to be opposed to the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any state, and to the unprovoked acquisition of the territory of another state by force.
“However, Thailand chose to abstain from the vote on the resolution because it takes place during an extremely volatile and emotionally charged atmosphere, and thus marginalises the chance for crisis diplomacy to bring about a practical and negotiated resolution to the conflict that may push the world to the brink of nuclear war and global economic collapse.
“We are genuinely concerned about the increased politicisation of international principles that has become counterproductive as the means and guidance to end the war. Condemnation provokes intransigence and therefore greatly reduces the chance for constructive engagement.”
The statement is consistent with the view expressed earlier this year by Pornpimol Kanchanalak, a special envoy to Myanmar appointed by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. The international community, she said, was getting “stuck in cancel rhetoric” when it came to dealing with the military junta in Myanmar.
“Condemnations, sanctions ... have reached diminishing returns,” she told a conference in Singapore in June.
Thailand also abstained in a vote to suspend Russia from UN Human Rights Council in April this year, citing the need for inclusivity. But it did vote to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine in March.
South Africa’s UN envoy, Mathu Joyini, said in a statement: “We have abstained on the resolution because we believe that the objective of this assembly in keeping with its mandate must always be to contribute to a constructive outcome conducive to the creation of sustainable peace in Ukraine.”
India’s envoy, Ruchira Kamboj, said that “the entire Global South has suffered a substantial collateral damage” from the war and that “pressing issues” were not addressed in the resolution.