Opinion – Fair Weather Friends: Looming MFP dissolution shows fickleness of the West

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Thailand’s political landscape is under scrutiny again as the Move Forward Party (MFP), which secured the highest number of seats in the recent elections, faces dissolution by the Constitutional Court. The charge against them? An attempt to amend the country’s strict lèse-majesté law. This looming judicial decision casts a long shadow not only on Thailand’s commitment to democratic processes but also on the conspicuous silence of Western countries—nations that have historically championed the principles of democracy and rule of law.

Despite the gravity of the situation, where a significant portion of the Thai electorate’s choice stands to be nullified, the response from countries like the United Kingdom, Sweden, and the United States has been markedly restrained. The UK and Sweden, while outwardly engaging in diplomatic activities, including monitoring political developments, appear more focused on maintaining trade relations, particularly in defense. Both countries have substantial defense contracts with Thailand, involving sales ranging from fighter jets to advanced military equipment.

This silence is not merely diplomatic caution but a clear inclination towards realpolitik—an approach where economic and strategic interests trump outspoken support for democratic ideals. The United States, for its part, is caught in a geopolitical bind. Voicing strong support for the MFP could potentially push the current Thai government closer to China and Russia, a scenario Washington is keen to avoid given the geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region. The Biden administration, wary of disrupting fragile regional balances, has thus chosen a path of minimal interference, a decision that risks alienating a younger, more progressive Thai populace disillusioned with international diplomacy that seems increasingly disconnected from their aspirations for democratic governance.

Historically, the behavior of the US and UK in abandoning allies when politically inconvenient is well documented. From the withdrawal from South Vietnam, which left a region in turmoil, to the more recent chaotic exit from Afghanistan, where countless local contractors were left to face the Taliban’s retribution, there is a pattern of strategic retreats that disregard the fates of erstwhile collaborators. Such actions have eroded trust and questioned the reliability of Western promises.

In the broader context of international alliances like AUKUS, aimed ostensibly at curbing Chinese influence in the region, countries like Australia and New Zealand also play their part in this theater of muted responses. Bound by strategic directives from Washington, their public rhetoric often falls short of addressing real issues of democratic backsliding among their regional partners, revealing a preference for strategic alignment over ideological consistency.

The supporters of the Move Forward Party and the broader Thai public are thus left in a precarious position. The lack of robust international support underscores a harsh reality: the West’s commitment to democratic principles is often conditional, influenced by broader strategic calculations rather than a steadfast commitment to supporting democracy abroad. The implication for those fighting for democratic integrity in Thailand is clear—they are, in essence, on their own.

This realization is not just a local but a global commentary on the shifting dynamics of international relations, where ideals are often overshadowed by interests, and allies are sometimes seen as mere pawns in the larger games of power. For Thailand, and for similar struggles around the world, the path forward requires a reassessment of who their true allies are and the realization that the battle for democratic rights and recognition may be a lonely one.


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