Updated: The China factor

14 06 2014

Reuters reports on the rapid tilt to China by the military dictatorship in Thailand. Thailand’s new military leaders have been quick to seek the support of regimes that are more likely to be amenable to a dictatorship, and China is certainly one of those.

It reports that a high-level military delegation has traveled to China for talks. Led by General Surasak Kanjanarat, the meeting was to discus “future plans of action” between the two militaries. Reuters notes that the “bid by Thailand’s military rulers to strengthen ties with China comes after Western powers, including old ally the United States, criticized the May 22 coup and called for a speedy return to democracy…. The junta has said it has China’s support.”

Reuters also reports that”the first major corporate deal since the coup, state-owned China Mobile Ltd agreed to buy a 19 percent stake in Thai telecoms group True Corp for US$881 million.” There’s no particular surprise there as True is dominated by the CP Group, which has long invested in China and is one of the Sino-Thai tycoon families that is royalist to the core.

The dictatorship may think that cosying up to China will act to quiet criticism from the Americans, but then that criticism of the coup has been very limited involving little more than the required cancellation of tiny amounts of military aid. PPT thinks it more likely that the junta is simply reflecting the political views of the conspiratorial extremists in the anti-democratic movement who have identified the U.S. as pro-Thaksin and an enemy. Most of this extremist group is ethnically drawn to China.

That said, part of the visit and the pandering to China is also about shoring up the Chinese tourist market. Reuters notes that Chinese inbound tourists were down by about 50% so far in 2014, and the dictatorship certainly wants those tourists back.

Update: Related to this post, the junta’s propaganda really does seem lame. The state propaganda unit reports that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has “confirmed many countries now understand the political situation in Thailand and express readiness to provide cooperation in various fields.” The MFA is a nest of coup supporters, so we can expect such pleading from them. It proclaims that Sihasak Phuangketkeow, who PPT once described as “a well-known mouthpiece for any kind of state repression and censorship” and who is now Permanent-Secretary for Foreign Affairs – rewarded for his toadying to the anti-democrats and fascists – had informed the junta “that he had received positive feedback from many countries during his visits to them.” The junta will probably want to believe him, although Sihasak is also a former protege of Thaksin Shinawatra,so they may be wary of the messenger, hoping that he is as politically slippery as The Eel.



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14 06 2014
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