Disappointment in Srettha’s Putin Phuket invitation

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In the unfolding global panorama, the canvas of diplomacy is stained with exigencies often superseding moral imperatives. Yet, for emerging democracies, the latter should not be shrouded in realpolitik engagements. The recent diplomatic rendezvous of Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin with Russian President Vladimir Putin and subsequent engagements in Beijing delineates a concerning trajectory for a nation that has freshly emerged from the shadows of a military junta.

The meeting, held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse before a dinner reception hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, marked the first interaction between Prime Minister Srettha and President Putin. Alongside over 130 leaders congregating for the international forum on Belt and Road Initiative, this meeting was not merely a casual diplomatic courtesy but a stance echoing Thailand’s international affiliations.

The disconcerting part of this rendezvous doesn’t stem from the realms of diplomacy but from the underlying message it sends amidst a turbulent global human rights landscape. Russia’s ongoing war of aggression in Ukraine and China’s alleged concentration camps in Xinjiang are not mere ripples in the international community but a tempest questioning the global human rights ethos.

The narrative of Thailand’s political theater is at a precipice, having recently transitioned from a military junta under Prayut Chan Ocha to a nascent democratic governance. The populace envisaged a paradigm shift, a dawn where human rights and democracy would no longer remain ensnared in the shackles of autocracy. Yet, the recent diplomatic engagements of Prime Minister Srettha signify a dissonance with these ideals.

Thailand, ensconced in the heart of Southeast Asia, has a pivotal role in not just fostering its democratic ethos but also in delineating a stance that resonates with human rights imperatives. The new government under the Pheu Thai banner was perceived as a harbinger of this change. However, the diplomatic dalliance with leaders of nations known for human rights abuses, subtly undermines the democratic fabric that Thailand is meticulously trying to weave.

Prime Minister Srettha’s meetings with executives of China’s major business, finance, and telecommunication conglomerates like Alibaba, CITIC Limited, and CRRC Corporation, as expressed on social media, underscore an overture towards fostering economic ties. While economic prudence is essential, it should not eclipse the cardinal principles of human rights and democracy. The expressions of interest by these companies in investing in Thailand paints a picture of economic allure overshadowing the grim human rights narratives emanating from their homeland.

The world is gradually gravitating towards a multipolar order, as acknowledged by President Putin. In this emerging scenario, Thailand’s diplomatic compass should navigate the turbulent waters with a moral rudder. The imperative for fostering economic ties should harmoniously coexist with a firm stance on human rights and democratic principles. The juxtaposition of economic aspirations and human rights is not a quixotic ideal but a pragmatic necessity in fostering a globally responsible governance.

Prime Minister Srettha’s interactions in Beijing, albeit focused on bilateral and economic engagements, also delineated Thailand’s stance on a global stage. A stage where the spotlight isn’t merely on economic accords but on a nation’s commitment to human rights and democratic principles.

The disappointment emanates not from the diplomatic engagement per se, but from the missed opportunity to underscore Thailand’s commitment to human rights and democracy. In a world that’s becoming increasingly cognizant of human rights abuses, the silence or the absence of a firm stance against such abuses echoes louder than diplomatic platitudes.

The narrative of Thailand’s diplomatic engagements should resonate with its democratic aspirations, sending unequivocal messages where human rights are not relegated to the periphery but are central to its international engagements. As Thailand carves its narrative on the global stage, the essence of democracy and human rights should not be lost in the cacophony of diplomatic and economic engagements.


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