Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says that his upcoming visit to Washington for the US – ASEAN summit on Friday does not mean Thailand will choose sides in the Russia – Ukraine war. He says the purpose of the summit is to discuss economy, trade and investment in the region. However, Ukraine has requested that Southeast Asian nations suspend dialogue with Russia, so political analysts expect that the summit might pressure PM Prayut to address the war despite his efforts to remain impartial.
Leaders of Southeast Asian countries will convene in Washington, US, from May 12 – 13 for a summit hosted by US President Joe Biden. Political commentators expect that Biden’s intentions are to strengthen the US’ ties with ASEAN countries, both to combat China’s growing influence in the region and to press leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to side with the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, PM Prayut says the summit serves a different purpose…
“RE my travelling abroad… It is a typical meeting like ASEAN-Japan and ASEAN-China. The ASEAN-US meeting is just another one but it coincided with the war [in Ukraine]… [We] do not choose one side over another. We are going as ASEAN members to discuss the economy, trade, investment and the regional situation, like in the past meetings.”
The summit “will discuss dozens of topics, and will not focus on one dominant issue,” explained PM Prayut.
Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the purpose of PM Prayut’s upcoming visit to Washington is to support the US’s role in Southeast Asia. The ministry said that ASEAN nations hope that the US will play a constructive role in creating peace and stability in relation to the Russia – Ukraine war…
“We are trying to use every summit to reaffirm our stance that we respect territorial integrity and sovereignty and support a ceasefire and peaceful negotiation,” said Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for American and South Pacific Affairs Chettaphan Maksamphan.
Although PM Prayut doesn’t want to “pick a side” in the ongoing conflict, political analysts expect that the summit will pressure him to publicly address the issue…
“Thailand is one of the countries that the US is trying to make choose the US side, not only on the current Ukraine crisis but also on China,” said Lecturer of Political Science Naing Lin from Chiang Mai University.
“I don’t think Thai people would care which side Prayut may support. But it’s all about what Thailand would get or lose from siding with the US, or remaining neutral,” Naing continued.
ASEAN countries appear to be divided over the Russia – Ukraine conflict. Last month, the Philippines and Myanmar voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights council over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Laos and Vietnam voted against the resolution. Six other ASEAN countries abstained from the vote.
The summit may force the abstaining countries to carefully consider their position, because Ukraine is pressuring ASEAN countries to suspend dialogue with Russia…
“We believe it’s important to isolate Russia internationally. Russia should not be part of ASEAN strategic partnership,” said Ukrainian Ambassador to the Philippines Olexander Nechytaylo in an interview last week.
SOURCE: Benar News
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