A Shift in U.S. Policy Is Needed

By Pavin Chachavalpongpun

Dr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at Kyoto University's Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Japan. Pavin is the author of two books: A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relations and Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy. He is also editor of Good Coup Gone Bad: Thailand's Political Developments Since Thaksin's Downfal, l, released in 2014.

Since the coup of 2014, the Thai political situation has greatly deteriorated, particularly the violations of basic human rights. The U.S. government has imposed sanctions against the military regime of General Prayuth Chan-ocha, but they were criticised as being too soft.  To lessen the impacts of Western sanctions, Thailand has moved closer into the orbit of China. The strengthening of the two countries’ relationship has intensified the anxiety of Washington about its own interests in Thailand. A shift in position of the U.S. in the Thai crisis is needed.

Recently, a more assertive position from the U.S. might have signalled the shift in the American view vis-à-vis the Thai political stalemate. The new U.S. ambassador to Bangkok, Glyn Davies, has proven to be more critical of the Thai situation than many would have expected. He repeatedly expressed disquiet about the shrinking democratic space in Thailand. He also reached out to alternative forces in Thai politics. Pro-junta groups were infuriated by Davies’s role, seeing it as an act of interference in Thai domestic politics.

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