Maris takes the reins as the new Thai Foreign Minister amid challenges in Myanmar and rising global tensions. His position was confirmed on Wednesday by the Royal Gazette after his predecessor’s shock resignation on Sunday.

The Royal Gazette on Wednesday confirmed Mr Maris Sangiampongsa as Thailand’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs. The 66-year-old is a former career diplomat with 33 years of experience who has spent the last five in the business world. Known to be close to both Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and former Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, he takes over the role at a challenging time. It sees Thailand navigating fraught waters between China and the United States in the region. At the same time, there is an urgent need for a more active approach to the Burmese civil war.

66-year-old Maris Sangiampongsa on Wednesday expressed confidence in his ability for the role. It came as he spoke at Government House on the same day the Royal Gazette confirmed him as Thailand’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Royal Gazette, on Wednesday, confirmed Mr Maris Sangiampongsa as Thailand’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mr Maris was nominated by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Monday.

It came after the shock resignation of former Minister of Foreign Affairs Parnpree Bahiddha-Nu-Kara, who lost his deputy premiership in the cabinet reshuffle confirmed over the weekend.

Maris was coy with reporters on Wednesday when asked about his links and friendship with former boss Mr Thaksin Shinawatra. Confident about the new role

On Wednesday, at Government House, Mr Maris underlined his friendship with Mr Srettha, with whom he has had regular contact. At the same time, he was somewhat coy about his relationship with ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Maris was a career diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, starting as an attaché in 1986. At length, he retired from the service in 2019 following a long and successful career.

Previously, he had come to know Mr Thaksin quite well.  This was when the latter was Foreign Affairs Minister from October 1994 to February 1996. That was in the government of Mr Chuan Leekpai.

Mr Maris is nicknamed ‘Poo’ and was well-known within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before retiring in 2019 as Ambassador Pu.

The 66-year-old was educated with a degree in political science (Politics and Governance) from Ramkhamhaeng University. Afterwards, he obtained a Masters in International Relations from Ohio University in the United States.

‘Ambassador Pu’ held posts as chief envoy to four countries over a ten-year period at the end of his Foreign Affairs ministry career which ended in 2019

Passing the Civil Service Commission examination, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Afterwards, he was posted to Brussels in 1989. Subsequently, he held positions both at home and abroad including roles in Berlin, Paris and Vientiane.

At length, he became ambassador to Nepal in 2009, Australia in 2011, New Zealand in 2015 and Canada in 2018.

Mr Maris was an advisor to former Minister of Foreign Affairs Parnpree Bahiddha-Nu-Kara before his appointment.

On Wednesday, he expressed confidence in his ability to handle the new job.

Significantly, it comes at a time when Thailand is seeking to become more engaged with players in the civil war in Myanmar.

Myanmar a big test for the new Foreign Affairs Minister

Recent setbacks for the junta and the dangerous situation on Thailand’s border to its West speak to the need for a change of policy.

Junta retakes Myawadee as it redeploys forces while rebels there have staged a ‘tactical’ retreat for now
Tyrant of Nay Pyi Taw’s days are numbered as Karen soldiers burn the hated Myanmar flag in Myawaddy

Nevertheless, Thai officials, in particular its diplomatic corps, are mindful of the importance of relations with Myanmar, in particular because of substantial Thai investment in the country.

However, the scale of collusion between the junta in Nay Pyi Taw and criminality on the border is a rising concern.

Role as an economic and trade drummer

Mr Maris will continue the role of his predecessor in seeking to attract foreign investment into Thailand.

The new foreign affairs minister has had extensive business experience. This should prove useful for drumming up investment and trade.

On Monday, he announced his resignation from Thanulux Plc.

This is an investment conglomerate listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET). The new foreign minister cited ‘personal reasons’ for his resignation.

In addition to this, he will be tasked with navigating the fraught world of rising geopolitical tensions.

Geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific between China and the United States are increasingly impacting the Thai economy. This is expected to only worsen

In the Indo-Pacific, China and the United States are engaged in an economic and political struggle.

Certainly, this is severely and negatively impacting Thailand’s economy. Notwithstanding the very real danger of conflict that has arisen.

The problem was alluded to directly by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin in December 2023 at the Asean-Japan Summit in Tokyo.

The Thai PM pulled no punches when he warned of a potential armed conflict either over Taiwan or the South China Sea.

Srettha warns of military conflict over rising South China Sea disputes with Beijing including Taiwan
Thailand and China forge closer ties with permanent visa-free access between both countries on March 1st 2024

At the same time, one of the achievements of Mr Srettha’s government and Mr Maris’s predecessor was the permanent Thai-Chinese visa pact which came into force in March.

The government is pursuing similar agreements with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

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