The language used in the draft resolution put before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations presented a clear message of support for the wave of protests on Thai streets since July. Even if the resolution is not passed by the 22 member committee in Congress, the tenor of the Democratic Party sponsored resolution and accompanying statements, by senators, suggests that the incoming Biden Presidency may not be a fan of conservative beliefs and traditions in Thailand which has sparked fear that it may pursue trade policies promoting its radical progressive agenda. One former lawmaker has highlighted the premature nature of last week’s draft resolution and the irony of Democratic senators criticising Thailand’s 2019 election as ‘flawed’ given the controversy still-raging in the United States where the US presidential election is still being disputed by the US President and the result not yet accepted by the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Congress. Mr Kobsak Chutikul suggests that many Thais will ask the US lawmakers ‘why don’t you put your own house in order first?’
Political experts and insiders are predicting that Thailand’s relief at what has been called by the US media and establishment as a victory for Vice President Joe Biden in the November 3rd US presidential election may quickly fall flat following a far-reaching and extensive draft resolution put to the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington last week. The resolution, unequivocally, expressed full support for the ongoing anti-government protests in Thailand and called on Thai authorities to listen to those on the streets.
Former Thai lawmaker, ambassador to Myanmar and Foreign Ministry official, Kobsak Chutikul, has warned the government that the draft US Senate resolution, published on December 3rd last, by nine US Senators including American Thai war veteran Tammy Duckworth, may be a sign of a more aggressive policy towards Thailand from the incoming Biden administration.
Mr Kobsak warned Thai officials that the incoming administration in Washington may pursue a radically progressive agenda with an emphasis on human rights, unlike the outgoing Trump administration, which focused on bi-lateral deals and the trade balances between the US and Asian countries including Thailand.
‘Progressive tide is turning’ in the United States
‘Unlike Trump, Biden will push for democracy and human rights. We must be aware that it is an indication of things to come. The progressive tide is turning. We can’t dismiss it out of hand not only from Biden but also from other allies of the US,’ Mr Kobsak said when interviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper on Monday.
It is widely understood that the new administration will be greatly controlled and directed by Biden’s incoming Vice President, Kamala Harris, who will be, without doubt, the most radical figure to ever hold presidential office and has campaigned primarily on civil rights issues.
Draft resolution referred to Thailand’s 2019 General Election as ‘flawed’ and warned of another coup
The former MP drew particular attention to the resolution’s reference to Thailand’s General Election in 2019, which saw the current Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha confirmed by a democratic vote, as ‘flawed’ and traced Thailand’s tumultuous political history. Indeed, in a statement supporting the resolution, the ranking US senator on the committee for the Democratic Party, Senator Bob Menendez, warned of the consequences of another coup in Thailand.
There is some irony in the passing criticism of Thailand’s General Election considering the current claims of widespread fraud in the US election being made by US President Donald J Trump and a growing range of election integrity activists.
Resolution may be premature says former MP
However, the Thai political insider also suggested that the premature nature of last week’s Senate move by the Democrats may undermine their position given the still spiralling controversy over the results of the US election which has yet to be legally concluded ahead of the vote of the College of Electors due on the 14th December and subsequent confirmation by Congress on January 6th next.
US President Trump is doggedly pursuing the matter through the courts despite being met with little success while also appealing to the legislatures in six key swing states where he alleges massive fraud.
At a campaign rally in Georgia, on Saturday, the US president stated categorically that he had won the election and appeared determined to remain in power.
88% of Republican lawmakers in the US Congress have not yet openly accepted Biden as President-elect
A survey by the Washington Post newspaper, over the weekend, found that only 27 Republican lawmakers out of 249 presently sitting in Congress, had yet openly accepted the projected result of the US election on November 3rd as called by the media establishment.
88% of these, at this point, refuse to acknowledge the projected outcome lending tacit support to President Trump’s claims which are denied by most blue-chip media sources as ‘baseless’ but which are, increasingly, through a string of recent legislative hearings, being backed up by video evidence, thousands of affidavits and independent statisticians, data and election experts who say the result when compared to past norms for US presidential polls is ‘highly implausible’ and points clearly to huge anomalies in the Democratic Party controlled swing states.
Why don’t you put your own house in order first?
Commenting over the weekend, Mr Kobsak suggested that many Thais could be forgiven for suggesting the US should look to its own democratic practices first of all.
He also suggested that many Thais would look askance at the direct support for the protesters coming from the US Senate if the resolution proposed was to be passed.
‘The poor timing can backfire because people can ask ‘why don’t you put your own house in order first?’ It might also be counterproductive for protesters because they can be accused of being backed by foreign countries,’ he said.
Political science expert predicts US pragmatism
Prapee Apichatsakol is the Vice President of the American Studies Association in the kingdom and a political science lecturer at Srinakharinwirot University.
Firstly, she does not see the draft resolution being passed by the senate committee. The committee has 22 members, 10 of them being from the Democratic Party. Secondly, she feels that the incoming US administration will be eager to partner with Thailand as it seeks to counter resurgent Chinese influence in the Asia Pacific region including a shift by Thailand towards its powerful neighbour to the north and away from its alliance with the United States.
‘I think the US will not take a hard line on us. However, Thailand has already pivoted to China under the Prayut government. Our foreign policy is well-calibrated because we approach major powers equally,’ Associate Professor Prapee explained.
Government’s pursuit of Section 112 Lèse-majesté charges against 17 protest leaders could become a hot button issue under Biden if long prison terms result
All commentators agree that the Thai government should be concerned. Currently, Thailand is pursuing criminal charges for Lèse-majesté against the leadership of the student protest movement seeking greater democracy and accountability in the kingdom including reform of the monarchy.
Prosecution under the draconian Section 112 of the Criminal Code which could see those concerned imprisoned for up to 15 years for criticism of the monarchy will not mix well with the new progressive and radical agenda of what is widely perceived to be, potentially, the most left-wing administration in US history.
New rules-based trade policy could be used by meddlesome progressive forces who may come to dominate the Biden/Harris administration
The government has already filed charges against 17 protesters.
Subsequent conviction of the protesters and long prison terms could lead to this becoming a hot button issue on the Biden/Harris political landscape in Washington dominated and driven by radical progressive forces.
A former Dean at Rangsit University thinks that the Thai government must prepare for a new US policy on trade and a more meddlesome approach by Washington as it plays to its base and its more progressive agenda.
Anusorn Tamajai warns of a new rules-based trade system which would focus on discrimination and the treatment of less advantaged groups in society. Thailand, to many in the United States, is seen as a deeply conservative country and may be targeted by Democratic activists for this as they urge strong action in support of Thailand’s progressive anti-government movement.
The United States has been the market, this year, that has been crucial to Thailand’s rebound in exports in the third quarter.
Mr Anusorn also predicts that the ongoing US trade war with China will continue under the Biden administration making the challenge for Thailand’s leadership even more difficult.