Tuesday, 5 July 2016
The waters of Puay Si should flow through Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United Nations.
Former ASEAN Secretary-General, and Thai Foreign Minister, Khun Surin Pitsuwan writes eloquently in yesterday’s Bangkok Post feature on Thailand’s thwarted efforts to gain a seat on the UN Security Council, narrowly beaten by Kazakhstan. While Team Thailand has anyway been active in reversing the EU’s concerns of overfishing and trafficking from Tier2 status in Human Rights Watch. And Thailand is active in the UN this year as Chair of G77. He’s right to point out that it’s no reflection on The Land of Smiles or Team Thailand’s diplomatic efforts – it may merely be the UN Disease of Buggins Turn over Value, as Kazakhstan comes before Thailand in the (Latin) alphabet.
Thailand’s long-term efforts to gain the seat will not have been greatly affected by military rule since 2014 –especially with the introduction of the referendum on the new Constitution this Summer to begin to return Thailand and its peoples back to full democracy and happiness. Thailand and UK together. 1984 and sandwiches and Hunger Games must surely be so last year for the New Normal of Thailand emerging from its “cocoon of comfort” for renewal again with over 60% of Thailand’s 14TN THB GDP linked to foreign investment and market. Indeed the UK is keen to move forward to help Thailand with Thai FDI down 70%, and Thai investment in UK down 35%, symbolised by the BCCT and Collier’s Chairman Simon Landy awarded the MBE for services to Thailand-UK trade in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours last month.
Thailand and UK and ASEAN reforms.
And the UK is keen to support Thailand’s near-neighbours in Cambodia and Laos and Myanmar, with Princess Diana figures such as the dynamic Princess Soma of Cambodia capable of working with and translating between Western and Eastern cultures. Or there’s plans to reinstate UK aid to Cambodia of $20M aid – DFID 0.7% GNI aid a UK world-leading initiative - but bizarrely aid to Cambodia one for the world’s poorest and malnourished regions, floating amidst a sea of rice, and not yet buoyed by exciting innovations such as Lucky Iron Fish. And action is needed in New Myanmar and the Shan state heroin that floods the UK streets, and yaba that washes through Bangkok’s streets, as well as support for Rohingya refugees stranded at sea and on Thailand’s borders.
Kazakhstan is no benchmark for Team Thailand: in recent months facing concerns in UK over royal scandals in trade contracts and how far such Central Asian states on Europe’s borders (and no doubt eventual EU accession with Russia and Turkey and North Africa) will move towards peace, prosperity and democracy. And, the UK views its own permanent seat on the Security Council, as if not a white elephant, then of no great value to discussions between the nuclear club of USA and Russia. And that due to fade amidst calls for zero nuclear weapons – unfortunately a Chernobyl or Fukushima or Damascus, USA accident - more likely than a Hiroshima.
21st Century ASEAN and UN.
And along with the risk of nuclear accident or missile misfires as in Taiwan recently, certainly for ASEAN a Haiyan disaster is ever more likely with Climate Change. Or the minor and old-fashioned colonial spats that litter the Caribbean and Pacific of the 21st century such as Falklands or Gibraltar or Spratleys, Kuriles, Senkaku and Paracels. As well as tighter UN restrictions, on bio-chem weapons such as phosphorous, the cost and use of submarines is a cause for concern for the UK’s taxpayers, as they are for Thailand’s taxpayers. The same sort of military bloat and excess such as UK’s aircraft carriers or new F35 jets that as well as being too expensive to fly, could be better spent on fast-forwarding the $200NB NHS and cancer research, TB, obesity or DNA programmes.
Indeed it’s apt that here in Kent, the German water cannon for London’s previous riots are to be scrapped post-Brexit discussions and no doubt recycled for car parts. While industry, pulls hard on the Brexit reins to ensure a greater economic growth in UK and EU, whether the IT and digital and finance and retail excellence of Silicon Roundabout, Silicon Fen, Discovery Science Park, WPP Group and Common Ground with UNSDG30, Vodafone, HSBC, Tesco, Marks and Spencer and City UK etc. Both Thailand and UK have few if any real enemies and many friends – not least each other. An Asian Special Relationship at the heart of ASEAN if you will. While with a possible although unlikely Brexit, and political upheaval in UK, the UK and French Security Council seats may be merged into a general EU seat to more fully include say Germany, and Italy of the reinstated EU28 again. And G77 questions need raising over the need for the 1945 Group of UN Security Council members that doesn’t include say India, Brazil or even an ASEAN seat in the 21st Century.
UK Brexit and Thailand.
Indeed with almost complete political collapse in UK in the last few weeks of Brexit and such a narrow, almost irrelevant, margin of victory (and for an advisory referendum at that), it might be best for UK to invite PM’s Prayut and Yingluck to advise on a government of reconciliation in Westminster not Dusit. If not, Minister Khun Surin himself, and a UN and ASEAN advisory team, reminiscent of the IMF help to UK in the dark days of the 1970’s. Indeed Scotland and Northern Ireland –and London – have faced calls for independence for UK anyway, and now specifically to remain in the EU rather than the United Kingdom and to secure a greater share of UK trade. The flood of post-Brexit applications for Eire, or eventually Scottish, passports, has also been met by Germany calling for UK citizens in EU to be given German citizenship to stem a European brain drain.
And surely it makes sense for Team Thailand and Team UK to be active in working together on other more meaningful links such as MegaTransport connectivity of ASEAN Rail to Cambodia and Myanmar, and bridges across the Mekong with Vinh and Vientiane connectivity, and doubling Thai students to UK from 10,000 to 20,000 (Malaysia has 17,000 students and China 89,000 students). And Thai Chevening scholarships to UK have already tripled at UK’s 130 universities and the myriad of language schools and business colleges. Thailand’s education potential and use of English as an ASEAN 2nd language could be hugely improved with UK support, say Open University or BBC TV and radio and internet with its new and innovative reforms, rather than just the Commonwealth in Asia of Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands. And with UK compulsory education reformed this year to age 18, and expanded foreign language learning, then the potential for systemic Gap Years to ASEAN is huge – the UK’s students now are the tourists and investors of the future. Kent and Thailand tourism and trade.
Indeed, UK and Kent were the first Europeans to establish diplomatic relations with Thailand in 1619 in Margate – albeit by accidental shipwreck on the way to France and the ambassadorial team being robbed. A fate unlikely now, but best for UK-TH work for reforms with a UK Tourism Police fashioned after 1155, given Thai visitors, tourists and students, are the 3rd highest spend in UK. While Deputy PM General Tanasak Patimapragorn, Chairman of Thailand’s National Film and Video Committee, and dynamic Sorts and Tourism Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, a Cultural Team Thailand, have revealed at Cannes 15% increases in film and new production, and tourism incentives for filming in Thailand, especially beyond the beaches to the Hidden Thailand of Isaan etc, as expanding UK-TH tourism, sports and trade must be vital to success for both nations.
Such a passport to success should include expanding tourism for all ASEAN’s citizens, given the new mega-cruise ships of Royal Caribbean or Princess Cruises eg Harmony of the Seas launching from Europe and USA into the Pacific through the expanded Panama Canal. Or there’s Thailand and Myanmar’s jungle treks without the fear of the Iron Harvest of landmines. A vicious harvest experienced not just in Greater Mekong Region but Kent and Belgium from the Somme, remembered this week, onwards. With Thailand’s contribution of Allied blood in Flanders in 1918 - and Kwai in 1943 - dimly remembered, but not forgotten here in Europe.
A New Thailand and UK.
A potential for an expanded Team Thailand with the dynamic NACC anti-corruption activity, stretches beyond the UN-SC to a New Thailand of Sports Diplomacy and Cultural Diplomacy. Whether that’s the Thundercastles, Police United, Toffeemen or Morlam, London Fashion Week, wildlife and arts protections and Thai silk, BBC, Shakespeare or Khon – the latter surely a TH-UK joint initiative in the UN Cultural Heritage programmes with Cambodia? And Climate Change activity of droughts and floods, with Mega-treeplanting, and weather satellites and space junk activity. A seat on the Security Council may be worthwhile but, as Brexit has shown to UK - and Thailand and much of ASEAN has experienced in previous years - such baubles are worthless without such unity stemming from the waters of Puay Si.
Tim Garbutt is Founder of Sincerity advertising agency, Surin Village School Charity with the first school built in Isaan, and standing for Parliament in UK to build better links between UK and Thailand, and ASEAN.