US elections: Donald Trump's triumph 'an opportunity to recalibrate Thai-US ties'

Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch the US election results come in at a Democrats Abroad viewing party in Bangkok on Nov 9, 2016.
Supporters of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton watch the US election results come in at a Democrats Abroad viewing party in Bangkok on Nov 9, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Thailand does not expect Mr Donald Trump's shock triumph in the United States presidential election to have much of an impact on bilateral relations, although some think that it presents an opportunity to reset strained ties.

In an official statement issued by Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday evening, the Kingdom said it "welcomes the result of the US presidential election" and "congratulates the American people on successfully electing the 45th President of the United States".

"Thailand and the United States share a long history of alliance and cordial relations of 183 years. Our cooperation is multi-dimensional covering many areas of mutual interests and both sides are committed to work constructively together," it said.

"Thailand will continue to work closely with the United States to further enhance Thai - U.S. partnership."

 

Earlier, Thai foreign minister Don Pramudwinai said he expected Thai-US relations to maintain on an even keel after the changeover, according to a report by Khaosod English online newspaper.

"Throughout the 183 years of relationship between the two nations, there were successions of governments, especially in the United States, both Democrats and Republicans took to power," he was quoted by Khaosod as saying. "But we have always been nations of friends. Everything goes on as normal."

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Thitinan Pongsudhirak thinks a Trump presidency "will be an opportunity to recalibrate relations".

While Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton, being current President Barack Obama's former secretary of state, would likely have been "more of the same", Mr Trump is "such an unknown quality".

"For Thai-US relations, there's been a lot of friction, it can hardly get worse," he told The Straits Times.

Ties between the two treaty allies have been rocky since the Thai military staged a coup in 2014, toppling the elected government run by the Puea Thai party. The military administration that took over has bristled at American calls for inclusive political debate and respect for human rights, and accused Washington of interfering in its domestic affairs.

 

In late 2015, US ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies was even accused of lese majeste after he made a speech in which he expressed concern about the lengthy sentences meted out for committing this crime. Lese majeste, or insulting or defaming the royal family, is a serious crime in Thailand which carries jail terms of up to 15 years' jail on each count.

Mr Davies, who hosted an election watch gathering at his residence in Bangkok on Wednesday morning (Nov 9) before the results were known, was optimistic about US's relations with Asia.

"I wouldn't look for any big changes, certainly no immediate changes, in how the United States of America continues its emphasis on our relationship with Asia as a whole and Asean in particular," he told reporters. "The investment that my boss President Obama has made in this US-Asean relationship is in the interests of the United States, regardless of who is President of the United States, and I think that it will be carried forward."

He added: "I will work to help that case."

Thailand's benchmark SET Index ended down just 0.03 per cent at the close of trading on Wednesday. tanhy@sph.com.sg