Nobody could predict that as Asean moves past its 50-year mark, a new international environment would emerge that will require the regional group to do further soul-searching. New buzzwords about uncertainties and unpredictability — due to sudden reservations about policies – have been the product of power shifts caused by the new style of US leadership and its perceived global role.
When the second session of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference was held last month, China emerged as the most important foreign player. Other countries long associated with the push for peace before the current process took shape have had to fine-tune their roles to ensure the process is inclusive.
With the Philippines chairing the regional block, Asean has never had a dull moment. President Rodrigo Duterte has lived up to his country’s pronounced theme of “Partnering with the region, engaging the world”.
From zero to hero is the trajectory of Thailand’s future relations with the US. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is scheduled to visit Washington in mid-June in response to US President Donald Trump’s invitation. The trip will mark an important step to repair the much-bruised bilateral relations after the May coup in 2014.
Should Asean issue a strong statement against China? Should Asean display solidarity against China? The bloc’s rhetoric on China has always been an enigma because it pertains to longstanding, unique Asean diplomatic approaches.
Thailand loves to discuss plans to help its neighbouring countries. “Prosper-Thy-Neighbour” has been the motto for decades for successive Thai governments. Since the end of the Vietnam war and the subsequent rapid economic development period of 1980s, Bangkok has dished out so many strategies and plans to bring about their developmental and improve their standard of living.
The best description of Thailand-Philippine friendship would be as twins separated at birth. Both countries are close allies of the US and each has their ups and downs. They fought side by side as members of the UN-led international forces in the Korean War.
What were major factors influencing Thai foreign policy towards neighbouring countries during the Cold War? Was the anti-communist ideology a catalyst in the country’s foreign policy formation? How independent was Thai foreign policy during the Cold War?
In the spring of 2000 in Bangkok, when Thailand was the Asean chair, Thai foreign minister Dr Surin Pitsuwan said in private to the author that North Korea must be brought into the Asean circle, especially the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the only region-side security platform, so that Pyongyang’s voice could be heard.