Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thailand: China, Vietnam Express Support for Junta, Junta to Offer "Charm" Concert at Victory Monument

According to Reuters, both China and Vietnam have interestingly expressed support for Thailand's new military government, an army spokesman said on Wednesday (June 4).

Several foreign governments have voiced disapproval of the coup, which saw General Prayuth Chan-ocha take power after months of political unrest that undermined the government of Yingluck Shinawatra. 

COMMENT: It is completely understandable as to why General Prayuth took over control of the country, which was to save Asia's second largest economy.

Knowing that the Thai military would eventually have to take action after six months of political turmoil that was tearing the country apart, economically, it is interesting to note that few diplomats and top officials of developed nations have not reached out to the junta at a time when a "friendly" voice is not only wanted, but expected.

If developed nations don't reach out and take steps to salvage long-standing relationships with the Thais, the latter may interpret former relationships as "fair-weather" only, and seek out alliances with nations that fail to have Thailand's best interests at heart. 

Although there is an appropriate time to put seemingly "rogue" nations in "short-pants," if ALL commentary is negative, vulnerable nations will stray toward greater "bad actors."
 
As our readers will recall, I had forecasted that "bad actors" would quickly emerge to offer assistance to the Thai junta, which potentially could tip the scales in the historic relationship between the US and Thailand.

Potentially, if the G20 fails to reach out to the Thais in their time of need, "really bad actors" such as Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and others may soon step up to the plate to offer their help, none of which would be positive.

"China's and Vietnam's ambassadors to Thailand met Supreme Commander General Thanasak Patimaprakorn on June 3, and assured us that they still have a good relationship with Thailand and that they hope the situation will return to normal quickly," Yongyuth Mayalarp, a spokesman for the military's National Council for Peace and Order, told reporters.

Additionally, Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Ministry said it recognized Thailand's new military rulers.

As I mentioned last week, Washington scrapped joint military programs with Thailand following the May 22 coup, while the EU urged the military to free political detainees and end censorship.

Australia downgraded its ties with Thailand on Saturday, imposed a travel ban on junta leaders and cut defense cooperation, the toughest measures taken by a foreign government since the change of regime.

It is unknown as to whether US Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken with General Prayuth. If he has not, he is encouraged to do so, rather than jeopardize the long-term relationship the two countries have shared.

The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment, dominated by the military, old-money families and the bureaucracy, and supporters of Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who are adored by the poor in the north and northeast.

Thankfully, junta's order did not include registered handguns. On a per capita basis, Thailand probably has more guns than most countries.

In May 2014, Thailand's consumer confidence index hit its highest level since January on hopes that the junta can restore the economy back from the brink of recession. The economy shrank 2.1% in the first quarter as political turmoil depressed demand.

The junta lifted a curfew on Tuesday (June 3) in the resorts of Pattaya, Phuket and Samui, in order to "relieve areas that are peaceful and free from political protests" and to support Thailand's vital tourism sector.

The midnight to 0400 hours daily curfew has not been lifted in Bangkok, but it has been shortened.

In its latest "charm" offensive, the army is putting on a concert on Wednesday evening (June 4) at Victory Monument, one of Bangkok's busiest junctions.

This event will be updated as new information becomes available.