Monday, March 19, 2007

The Nation: While Thailand is Falling Apart, We Are Grateful that Europe Is Understanding About The Coup

Foreign Ministry fails to break ties of past

Opportunity missed to devise a broader policy for lacklustre department that seems content to maintain the status quo

The annals of Thai history will soon record that the Foreign Ministry has missed its biggest opportunity to jump-start a foreign policy that is kinder and more broad-based.

Six months have elapsed and the list of accomplishments is far and few. The ministry has failed to break from the past.

New Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram and his deputy Sawanit Kongsiri have viewed their jobs as caretakers during the one-year interim period. So it is not surprising the ministry has lacked energy and tried to maintain the status quo as much as possible. The prevailing attitude is to hang on in there until the last day - so that they can leave the job.

To be fair, the best thing the ministry has done recently was to push for a "people-oriented Asean", even though it was a bit too little and too late. This should have been the tenet of Thai foreign policy towards Asean long before. But somehow it was not taken up by the past government.

Under this government, it was Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, who has personally pledged to support the promotion of human rights and democracy in the region, that provided the new policy direction for the ministry.

At the recent foreign ministerial retreat in Siem Reap, Thailand called on the grouping to set up a regional mechanism for human rights, which it promised to do back in 1993.

After all, Thailand was a prime mover to make Asean more open. Back in 1995, Bangkok proposed the plan to set up an Asean People's Council - but that proposal was rejected outright. Now there is more support for such ideas within Asean.

Nitya's intervention was timely and of great value, because the drafters of an Asean Charter are seeking input from civil-society organisations in the group.

Under the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, this noble idea was pushed under the rug. It was revived with gusto earlier this year, in line with the Surayut government's pro-human rights approach. Last month, Thailand allowed the International Commission for Jurists to open its office in Bangkok. Previously, the ministry had blocked the application.

The ministry also missed the opportunity to boost Thailand's image overseas by adopting a more proactive approach.

Without the week-long squabbling with Singapore, the soft-spoken Nitya probably would not have spoken out for himself. But he came out strongly and effectively to defend himself and his country. If he could be as assertive now as he was then, Nitya could lead the ministry and become the spokesperson for Thai foreign policy in a time of crisis.

Nitya was smart because he stood up to Singapore for doing what exactly?

Furthermore, the ministry should have utilised its human resources much better. It is not easy, because there is a large pool of senior foreign ministry officials who are loyal to the previous government. That was why during the first four months, there was only inertia.

So what? The last government was legally installed and this one is illegitimate.

The ministry's careful and cautious approach, the so-called "don't rock the boat" mentality, further dampened the whole image of the country. Its diplomacy is still restricted to Asean, Japan and China. The coup has failed to gain acceptance outside Asia, especially in the US and Europe.

Love this mentality. The Nation blames the foreign ministry for not taking a more offensive approach to defending the junta when there was no evidence to justify a coup and the junta has showed itself to be incompetent.

Brief but hostile exchanges between Thai and EU officials over the handling of assistance for the tsunami victims, including alleged corruption, has rubbed salt into the wounds, tarnishing the good Thai-EU relations.

Thai officials apparently embezzled Tsunami aid funds, yet it is the European's problem for pointing this out. When it comes to stealing farang money, The Nation is all for it and the Europeans and the Americans should just shut up about it to protect Thailand's pristine image.

With this concern in mind, at the recent Asean-EU ministerial meeting in Germany, Nitya managed to convince the EU that Thailand is on the democratic path with the constitution and election on schedule by the year's end.

Thailand should thank German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, chair of the Asean-EU meeting, who showed sympathy and understanding. Indeed, Europe is important to Thailand and its political support is imperative.

I have yet to see any evidence to support the EU-German embrace of this coup or any of the foreign ministry's bullshit about a return to Thai democracy. And what Thai democracy? An elite/military centered constitution?

In the remaining months, Thailand should move beyond Asia to the US and Europe, as they have little understanding of what has transpired over here.

In other words, feed Europe and the US more bullshit, because they are too stupid to get Thailand. It seems they were both right from the very beginning. This coup was a bad idea.

The ministry must not be timid and should engage the foreign press, which have been very critical of Thailand and the coup aftermath. It was unfortunate that many senior foreign officials were passive.

The foreign press was right; The idiots at The Nation were wrong.

For those who really want to help, one year is a hell of long time to put in place new fundamentals.

But for those whose gears are always in neutral, it is a long and winding road.

Regional Desk

The Nation

Again, here is more intellectual inconsistency from The Nation.

While the country is literally falling apart every which way because of the disastrous mismanagement of the coup leaders and the Surayud government, The Nation thinks that it is wise for the Department of Foreign Affairs to defend this coup and its policies all over the world.

Do these people have any shame at all?

Any true friend of Thailand would be asking: What the fuck are you guys doing to yourselves?

The Thais love the Chinese, because they will tell the Thais whatever they want to hear. But later the Chinese will come in to buy up all the pieces when the fire sale starts as a result of a economic and political meltdown, which is exactly what happened after the 1997 crisis.

Thailand doesn't need love and understanding and a lot of superficial support from some Europeans who could really care less. Instead, Thailand needs a kick in the ass from its real friends. Europe should stick to the tough love, because the US certainly is no position to give it.

The Nation seems to think that any country that doesn't buy into the self-destructive bullshit is an enemy of Thailand and in the pocket of Thaksin.

Yet, it is The Nation itself that has published 20 damning editorials and columns lambasting this military installed government for its incompetence. It has also voiced concern about a new elite centered constitution that marginalizes the masses. This is what The Nation wants the foreign office to defend?

So, which is it? The Thai government needs to be defended by its foreign office for its stupidity and incompetence or should the international community tell the truth to its friend that it had better straighten up or disaster will surely come to it from its own self-inflicted mistakes.

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