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When did Thailand’s contact with other countries begin, and how has this evolved? How many countries does Thailand have diplomatic relations with today?
Documented evidence shows that Thailand’s relations with foreign countries began in the 13
century, during the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom. During the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1278-1320), Siam (as the country was referred to before the 20
century) began what would become one of the longest external relations with China. Many goodwill missions bearing gifts were sent back and forth between King Ramkhamhaeng the Great and the Emperor of China. Through these cordial relations began the flourishing Sino-Thai trade with silk becoming a main item of trade with China, its neighbouring kingdoms, and beyond. The subsequent period saw the rise of international trade, with Ayutthaya and later on Bangkok becoming a thriving market for goods from the Far East to be exchanged for merchandise from other parts of the world. It was this role of trading post that attracted traders from Europe and began an era of international relations with the West. In 1516, Siam concluded a commercial agreement with Portugal, the first of its kind between Siam and a European country. This was followed suit by similar agreements with other European countries such as Spain, the Netherlands, England and France. What began as foreign trade quickly extended to other areas such as diplomacy and negotiations. The year 1684 saw the first diplomatic mission from Siam to France. This tradition has continued into the early Bangkok period, from 1782 onwards, when foreign affairs became an increasingly prominent feature in the Kingdom’s activities. At present, Thailand maintains diplomatic relations with 195 countries.
What are examples of international and regional cooperation frameworks in which Thailand is a participant or member?
Along with Thailand’s activities within the United Nations Framework, the following are examples of Thailand’s commitment to numerous international and regional cooperation frameworks:
Ayeyawady - Chao Phraya - Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS)
ACMECS is a cooperation framework amongst Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam to utilize member countries’ diverse strengths and to promote balanced development in the sub-region.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam then joined on 8 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999, making up what is today the ten Member States of ASEAN. The aims and purposes of ASEAN as set out in the ASEAN Declaration are, among others, to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region, and to promote regional peace and stability, active collaboration and mutual assistance on matters of common interest in the economic, social, cultural, technical, scientific and administrative fields. Over the years, ASEAN has evolved from a loose regional organisation into a more rule-based one with the ASEAN Charter coming into force in 2008. ASEAN has set the goal of becoming an ASEAN community by 2015.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Thailand is one of the founding members of APEC, which was established in 1989. Together with other ASEAN members, Thailand has played a constructive role in APEC and continued to pursue APEC’s ambitious goals of free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for developed member economies and 2020 for developing ones. The Thailand hosted the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, or APEC Summit, in 2003.
Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)
The origins of the ASEM process lay in a mutual recognition, in both Asia and Europe, that the relationship between the two regions needed to be strengthened, reflecting the new global context of the 1990s, and the perspectives of the new century. The first ASEM Summit was held in Bangkok in March 1996 which marked the beginning of the ASEM Summit. ASEM is an informal process of dialogue and co-operation bringing together the 27 European Union Member States, the European Commission,19 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat as well as Australia, New Zealand, and Russia. The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between Asia and Europe, in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.
Asia-Middle East Dialogue (AMED)
AMED was conceived to foster dialogue and mutual understanding as well as strengthen co-operation between Asia and the Middle East in different areas. At the inaugural AMED meeting in Singapore, participants recognised that it was imperative to increase mutual understanding and promote greater interactions between Asia and the Middle East. Issues discussed range from security and political issues to economic and social issues of interest to the two regions. Thailand hosted the Third AMED Ministerial Meeting in 2010.
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
BIMSTEC, with Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal as member countries, covers a population of approximately 1.3 billion and the trade value between Thailand and other countries in the group exceeded US$3 billion in 2003. The forum is unique as the only link between South Asia and Southeast Asia, bridging South Asia’s Look East policy with Thailand’s Look West policy. BIMSTEC can also be considered as a mechanism to promote opportunities for trade, investment and tourism between Thailand and South Asia.
Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation (FEALAC)
FEALAC is an association of 34 countries from East Asia and Latin America, formerly known as the East Asia – Latin America Forum (EALAF) as proposed by Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong when he visited Chile in October 1998. This appellation has been renamed to FEALAC at the 1st Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Santiago in 2001. The Forum aims to promote mutual understanding, political and economic dialogue, and substantive cooperation among member states to tap potential of multidisciplinary cooperation, inter alia, in economics, trade investment, finance, science and technology, environment protection, culture, sport, and people-to-people exchange, as well as to expand common ground on important international political and economic issues with a view to working together in different international fora in order to safeguard common interests.
Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA)
In October 2004, Thailand joined the CICA, a multi-national forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia. It is a forum based on the recognition that there is close link between peace, security and stability in Asia and in the rest of the world. The Member States, while affirming their commitment to the UN Charter, believe that peace and security in Asia can be further enhanced through dialogue and cooperation leading to a common indivisible area of security in Asia where all states co-exist peacefully and their peoples live in peace, freedom and prosperity.
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)
Thailand is an Asian partner for cooperation in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) along with Australia, Afghanistan, Japan, Mongolia, and the Republic of Korea. The OSCE is a pan-European structure comprising 56 participating states. It was established under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter as the primary instrument for early warning and prevention of crisis situations, resolution of existing conflicts, and post-conflict rehabilitation in Europe. A wide range of issues falls under the Organisation’s purview, including arms control, preventive diplomacy, strengthening of confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, observation of elections, and also economic and environmental security.
Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
With 5.8 % of its population being Muslim, Thailand is an observer of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), an international organisation grouping fifty seven States which have decided to pool their resources together, combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interests and secure the progress and well-being of their peoples and of all Muslims in the world.
What are some of the major contributions that Thailand has made to international peace and security?
Thailand has played an active role, contributing to the United Nations’ peacekeeping operations (PKO). The Kingdom has sent troops, military observers and experts on mission a well as police officers to join a number of PKOs. For the past two decades, Thailand deployed almost 20,000 personnel in peacekeeping missions worldwide. During 2009-2010, Thailand is a member of the UN Peacebuilding Commission as it believes that sustainable development is crucial for perpetual peace. This is what Thailand is working for by helping lay the foundations for peace through development from the peacekeeping phase onwards, ranging from the transfer of agricultural know-how in Timor-Leste to the building of essential infrastructures in Burundi. Outside UN framework, Thailand has also recently sent a Counter-Piracy Task Group to assist international efforts in patrolling and protecting ships from pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Other UN and international peacekeeping missions in which Thailand has participated include those in Timor-Leste, Cambodia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Nepal, Sudan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Haiti. Moreover, Thailand was a non-permanent of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during 1985-1986. Desiring to play a more active role in international peace and security, Thailand has presented its candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC for the term 2017-2018.
How many key international human rights conventions is Thailand a State Party to?
Thailand is party to a total of seven international human rights conventions, namely:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW;
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the Optional Protocol to the CRC on the involvement of children in armed conflicts;
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD);
Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); and
Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
How many international organisations have their offices in Thailand?
Various international organizations as well as UN specialised agencies, have their seats, regional offices or country representation in Thailand. These include:
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP);
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR);
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP);
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP);
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA);
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR);
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF);
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC);
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM);
World Food Programme (WFP);
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO);
International Labour Organisation (ILO);
International Telecommunication Union (ITU);
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO);
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO);
Universal Postal Union (UPU);
World Health Organisation (WHO);
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS);
World Bank Office;
Asian Development Bank;
International Finance Corporation (IFC);
Asian Institute of Technology (AIT);
Asian-Pacific Postal Training Centre (APPTC);
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC);
International Organisation for Migration (IOM); and
International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL)
What role does Thailand play in the development of the region?
Thailand recognises that its development as well as the development of the region as a whole could not become sustainable if other countries were left behind. As for ASEAN itself, the existence of economic and development disparities between old and new members is clearly visible. Realising this dilemma, Thailand has adhered to a policy based on the principle of “prosper thy neighbors”. Promoting prosperity in the region in a sustainable manner would not only add value to ASEAN, but would also invariably strengthen the Asian region as a whole. This principle coupled with Thailand’s economic progress and growing confidence has allowed it to play a more proactive role in international affairs. Once a net recipient of foreign aid itself, Thailand emerged to gradually become a donor country in its own right to countries the region and beyond. Several initiatives have been implemented to facilitate sustainable development in the region. Under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) initiative, which comprises Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the provinces of Yunan and Guang Xi of the People’s Republic of China, programmes to promote economic development in the Mekong sub-region have been implemented. The GMS programmes, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other donors, seek to enhance connectivity, increase competitiveness and a greater sense of community not only in the Mekong Sub-region, but also the region as a whole. Thailand is determined to push for substantial progress of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and has been actively involved with several infrastructure development projects, such as the North-South, East-West and Southern Economic Corridors which will pave the way for a freer flow of trade, investments and people throughout the whole sub-region. In addition, Thailand recognises the importance of human resource development and organises a number of training courses for personnel from the Greater Mekong Sub-region countries, including training for development managers, in support of the Phnom Penh Plan, at the Mekong Institute in Khon Kaen Province, and training for trade officials at the Institute for Trade and Development in Bangkok. A fast-track economic co-operation strategy, known as the Ayeyawady – Chao Phraya – Mekong Economic Co-operation Strategy (ACMECS), is another initiative established in 2003 to help reduce the economic disparities within the region, currently concentrating on Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. ACMECS serves as a catalyst building upon existing regional co-operation as well as complementing existing bilateral frameworks with a view to transform the border areas of the ACMECS member countries into efficient zones for economic growth, social progress and prosperity. At the same time, it is intended to blend local, national and regional interests for common benefits, shared prosperity, enhanced solidarity, peace, and stability of the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Thailand is also committed to providing greater assistance to its neighbours through a number of joint and bilateral projects with Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Myanmar under the strategic framework of ACMECS. Through transport links and the establishment of special border economic zones, Thailand supported the development of sister cities along the border areas, namely, between Koh Kong, Cambodia, and Trat, Thailand; Savannakhet, Lao PDR, and Mukdahan, Thailand; and Myawaddy, Myanmar, and Mae Sot, Thailand. Recent development in the Mekong Sub-region has given rise to the Mekong-Japan Cooperation, bringing together the countries of the Mekong Sub-Region and Japan in a collective enterprise based on shared goals and aspirations to advance sustainable development in the sub-region. Such enhanced engagement by Japan is only natural, given Japan’s long history of relations with the countries in the region and its vibrant economic presence in the region’s economies. During the 1
Mekong-Japan Summit which was held in Tokyo from 6-7 November 2009, Thailand reaffirmed its commitment to the development of the sub-region as a co-donor and co-sponsor, especially in the area of human development where Thailand is reputable for its many world-class educational institutions. Also, with the recognition that tourism can be an effective instrument promoting socio-economic development, Thailand, Cambodia and the Lao PDR formed the Emerald Triangle Co-operation with the aim to utilise the combined tourism resources of the sub-region for the mutual benefit of the participating countries. Members adopted a Plan of Action in 2003 to conduct joint research and joint marketing exchanges as well as development of human resources; transport and tourism facilities; and improvement of border checkpoints.
What is Thailand’s role in ASEAN? What are Thailand’s contributions towards the evolution of ASEAN?
Thailand joined Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore in establishing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), signing the Bangkok Declaration at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Thailand on 8 August 1967. ASEAN was conceived with an aim to promote peace and accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region through joint endeavours in a spirit of equality and partnership. It evolved to become a main driving force for the region and later on expanded to include every country within the region. ASEAN has been a main pillar of Thai foreign policy. With its policy to transform the battlefield in Southeast Asia into a marketplace, Thailand proposed in 1992 an ASEAN Free Trade Area which would transform the entire ASEAN region into one huge market by the year 2003. Then in 1994, the Kingdom hosted the first ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a forum for political and security dialogue which brings together all major powers in the region. Thailand has continuously and actively contributed to ASEAN’s greater integration and its goal of becoming an ASEAN community by 2015. On 24 July 2008, the Kingdom was entrusted with the duty of the ASEAN Chairmanship. An important fact that makes the Thai Chairmanship exceptional is that the ASEAN Charter, outlining the guiding principles for the new ASEAN, came into force on 15 December 2008, five months into its chairmanship. Besides putting the priority of realising the commitment under the ASEAN Charter, Thailand also emphasised the importance of making ASEAN a people-centred community and of reinforcing human development and human security for all. To further reinforce Thailand’s aspiration to deliver the benefits to all the Peoples of ASEAN, the theme of the 14
ASEAN Summit which Thailand hosted in Cha-Am Hua Hin on 27 February – 1 March 2009 was “ASEAN Charter for ASEAN Peoples.” In addition, realising that peoples’ awareness and sense of ownership is crucial to the creation of a true ASEAN Community, Thailand organised the ASEAN Youth Summit to get people of the next generation more involved with ASEAN and initiated formal engagement with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) and representatives of Civil Society Organisations within the region. This has set in motion the process to foster greater awareness and greater participation with major stakeholders of ASEAN in the ASEAN process. Another important milestone for realising an ASEAN Community was the establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) which was officially inaugurated at the 15
ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Cha-Am Hua Hin on 23-25 October 2009. Thailand chaired AICHR’s first meeting. The establishment of AICHR was the first step for ASEAN to try to ensure that ASEAN will have at its core the interests of its peoples, and that the ASEAN Community which we are now building will develop into a caring and sharing community where the rights of the peoples will be ensured. Looking ahead, Thailand is prepared to work closely with all concerned parties to ensure that AICHR will be a strong pillar for human rights development in ASEAN. Thailand’s ambition to build an ASEAN Community is also reflected in the theme that was chosen for the 15
ASEAN Summit – “Enhancing Connectivity, Empowering Peoples” which echoes Thailand’s vision that in moving forward with the creation of an ASEAN Community, ASEAN should focus its efforts in three areas: creating a Community that is action oriented, fostering a Community that is interconnected both physically and through mutual understanding, and realising the goal of a Community that truly belongs to the peoples of ASEAN.
How far along is Thailand in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?
Thailand has achieved most of the MDGs, especially goals relating to poverty eradication, providing universal primary education, and promoting gender equality. On health-related issues, Thailand has been successful in reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and on good progress to becoming successful in ensuring universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it. For more ambitious targets, Thailand has achieved good progress in our MDGs-Plus goals. These include reducing malaria incidence in 30 border provinces to less than 1.4 per 1,000. At the local level, Thailand has conducted “Provincial MDGs”, a pilot project to use MDGs in provincial planning and development. This is in line with the Kingdom’s efforts on decentralisation of public administration. In addition, it stresses the importance that development plans at the provincial level must be in line with the national and regional strategic plans. As it continues moving forward, Thailand has also shared its experience and good practice with other developing countries through South-South Cooperation as well as Trilateral Cooperation. The country’s experience shows that international cooperation must be demand-oriented and enable developing countries to adapt themselves and carry out their development plan to achieve the MDGs. Thailand has emphasised the importance of people and fully addressed human security and their development. Thus, its development cooperation focuses on three major sectors: agricultural development to ensure food security; health service enhancement to ensure people’s wellness and access to health service; and human resource development to promote capacity building for individuals and SMEs development as means to ensure employment and job creation. This is evidence of Thailand’s achievement on the goal concerning partnership cooperation.
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