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In a world that often feels unsteady, buffeted by the winds of geopolitical strife, nations like Thailand are tempted to cling to a stance of neutrality like a lifeline. Yet when neutrality becomes indifference to the lives of its own citizens, one must question the merit of such a stance. How many lives must be lost, how many innocent Thais must perish before Thailand’s foreign policy manifests the vigor that its people deserve?
The horrific news from the Israel-Hamas conflict is a grim tally: 21 Thai nationals killed, 14 taken hostage. We are all united in mourning, but we must ask, where is the outrage from our government? Families huddle at Suvarnabhumi International Airport, a grim tableau of despair and disbelief, as they await the arrival of their wounded loved ones. Videos circulate on social media that none of us ever wanted to see—evidence of the cruel fate of a fellow Thai citizen. Still, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs remains reticent, choosing neutrality over action. One is prompted to wonder: is our ministry so toothless?
Of course, neutrality in international conflicts is often a strategic choice, a decision to preserve national interests. But what could be a greater national interest than the safety and lives of the citizens who comprise the nation? When the government maintains a passive stance even as our people die, that neutrality takes on a sinister shade—it becomes an abdication of duty, an insult to the memory of those lost, and a question mark over the worth the government places on a Thai life.
Some 30,000 Thais reside in Israel, largely contributing to the agriculture sector, not just holidaymakers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are abroad to make a living, often sending remittances that buoy our economy. If the labor of these hardworking individuals is good enough to benefit our nation, then their lives should be good enough to merit our protection.
A government that does not rage against the dying of its citizens’ light sends a disturbing message. A nation that does not rise to defend its own when the worst happens is a nation that has lost its moral compass. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs may not have battalions at its disposal, but it has diplomatic channels, it has a voice in international forums, and it should be using that voice to loudly and clearly demand justice and safety for its people.
It’s time to reassess what neutrality means and whom it serves. Neutrality should never be an excuse for inaction when our citizens’ lives are at stake. The stakes are too high, the cost in human lives too dear. A nation’s first duty is to its people. It’s high time Thailand’s foreign policy reflects that irrefutable fact.