September 26, 2014

Call on Laotian people to save our Land, Very Soon Mekong dam will destroying the region’s lifeblood

Help Us Save the Mekong River!

Our River feeds Millions

 

The Mekong River is under threat. The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand are considering plans to build 11 big hydropower dams on the river's mainstream

Mekong Dams: Opposition Grows to Laos’ Mega Dams

Key Issues:
Xayaburi, Don Sahong, and Lower Mekong Mainstream Dams

A renewed push to build hydropower dams on the lower Mekong mainstream is threatening the river’s ecosystems, aquatic resources and the fishery-dependent livelihoods of millions of people.

แม่น้ำโขง

แม่น้ำโขง – สายน้ำที่ยาวที่สุดในอุษาคเนย์ และยาวเป็นอันดับสิบของโลก จากต้นกำเนิดบริเวณเทือกเขาหิมาลัย แม่น้ำโขงไหลผ่านถึง 6 ประเทศ จากที่ราบสูงทิเบต ผ่านภาคตะวันตกเฉียงใต้ทางมณฑลยูนนาน ประเทศจีน ไหลสู่ พม่า ลาว ไทย กัมพูชา ก่อนจะออกสู่ทะเลจีนใต้ที่ดินดอนสามเหลี่ยมปากแม่น้ำประเทศเวียดนาม รวมความยาวทั้งสิ้น 4,909 กิโลเมตร

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.terraper.org/mainpage/key_issues_detail_en.php?kid=8&langs=en

The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. 

More information from http://www.internationalrivers.org/
“The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law,” said Ms. Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia Program Director for International Rivers. “We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos. The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.”
—-

Xayaburi Construction’s Photo

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/multimedia/photo/257475/laos-river-life/embed

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/236558/activists-call-to-scrap-lao-dam-project

Activists are unhappy with Laos’ pledge to study the environmental effects of the controversial Xayaburi hydro dam.  Click for more

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source:  http://www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/laos-evades-responsibility-with-dam-construction-30193861.html

Ame Trandem, Pianporn Deetes
November 8, 2012 1:00 am

In clear defiance of its neighbours and a regional agreement, the Lao government announced that it would hold a groundbreaking ceremony at the Xayaburi Dam site on the Mekong River on Wednesday, November 7. Viraphonh Viravong, Laos’ deputy minister of energy and mining, said “It has been assessed, it has been discussed the last two years. We have addressed most of the concerns.
After the ceremony, the project developers are expected to begin construction on the cofferdam, which diverts the river while the permanent dam wall is built. The cofferdam is expected to be completed by May 2013.

The international community should not let the Lao government get away with such a blatant violation of international law. We are calling on donor governments and the governments of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to take a firm stand against Laos.

The Xayaburi Dam is the first of a cascade of devastating mainstream dams that will severely undermine the region’s development efforts. The food security and jobs of millions of people in the region are now on the line.

Construction activities at the dam site began in late 2010. In April 2011 the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments asked the Lao government for further studies on the project’s trans-boundary effects. In December 2011 the four governments of the Mekong River Commission met and agreed to conduct further studies on the effects of the Xayaburi Dam and 10 other proposed mainstream dams. To date, no regional agreement has been made to build the Xayaburi Dam despite the 1995 Mekong Agreement’s requirement that the governments of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos cooperate and seek joint agreement on mainstream projects.

Laos said it would cooperate with neighbouring countries, but this was never genuine. Instead, the project always continued on schedule and was never actually delayed. None of Vietnam and Cambodia’s environmental and social concerns have been taken seriously. Laos has never even collected basic information about the ways that people depend on the river, so how can it say that there will be no impacts?

On October 22, Vietnam’s minister of natural resources and environment met the Lao prime minister and requested that all construction on the Xayaburi Dam be stopped until necessary studies to assess the effects of Mekong mainstream dams were first carried out.

Laos continues to deny that the dam will have trans boundary impacts and is applying the recommended mitigation measures made by Finnish consulting company Poyry and French company Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, despite the fact that the project has never carried out a trans-boundary impact assessment. The Cambodian government, Vietnamese government, and scientists throughout the Mekong region have disagreed with the work of these companies.

Laos is playing roulette with the Mekong River, offering unproven solutions and opening up the Mekong as a testing ground for new technologies. When the Mekong River Commission stays quiet and tolerates one country risking the sustainability of the Mekong River and all future trans-boundary cooperation, something is seriously wrong.

As Thai companies serve as the project’s developers and financers, and the Thai government will purchase the bulk of the Xayaburi Dam’s electricity, Thailand has the responsibility to call for a stop to construction immediately and cancel its power purchase agreement until there is regional agreement to build the dam. This move by Laos sets a dangerous precedent for the future of the Mekong region. If Laos is allowed to proceed unhindered, then in the future all member governments will proceed unilaterally on projects on the Mekong River. The Mekong Agreement will become yet another useless piece of paper.

Unless the Mekong dam crisis is tackled immediately, the future of the region is in great danger. With the Asian and European heads of states gathered in Vientiane, Laos for the Asem Summit, it’s time that the international community takes a strong stand and makes it clear that such actions by Laos will not be tolerated.

Ame Trandem is Southeast Asia programme director, International Rivers. Pianporn Deetes is Thailand campaign coordinator, International Rivers.

http://www.internationalrivers.org/resources/laos-evades-responsibility-and-plows-ahead-with-xayaburi-dam-7714

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Credits: International Rivers

May 25, 2015

The holiday’s origins can be traced back 150 years

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Holidays

Who Invented Memorial Day?

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May 23, 2015

Memorial Day: Dedicated To The U.S. Secret Army In the Kingdom of Laos 1961 – 1973

 

Arlington Memorial

Photo Courtesy of Charles F. Printz

In Memory of Legions Lost and the
Soldiers of the Secret War in Laos.

“ພຣະຣາຊອານາຈັກລາວ”


_______________________________________________________

We stand in tribute of forgotten men…for their sacrifice, courage
valor and honor. We honor them by this living memorial…starkly
beautiful in its simplicity, for it stands defiantly alone, as did those
soldiers in their seasons of death. It will serve as a poignant reminder
of our battlefield allies, and is a tribute long overdue to proud Human
endeavor…courage and valor in a long war lost in the unfulfilled hopes
for Southeast Asia.

As the fallen leaves of Autumn
in unregimented ranks,
Countless unrembered soldiers
rest…eternally.
Let us now praise forgotten men…
and some there be,
Which have no memorial;

Who have perished, as though
They had never been.
But they served, they died;
for cause and by happenstance…
Expended in the hopes for Southeast Asia,
and will forever be remembered,
Mourned for their sacrifice.If by weeping I could change
the course of events,
My tears would pour down ceaselessly
for a thousand Autumns.

Thursday, May 15, 1997
Salute to Lao/Hmong Patriots
& their American Advisors
Arlington National Cemetery

 _______________________________________________________

Dedicated to:
The U.S. Secret Army In the Kingdom of Laos 1961 – 1973
The story of this Memorial is a story of sacrifice and patriotic valor by American Advisors and Hmong and Lao combat soldiers in the jungles of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.HmongGeneralVangPao’s army, once considered among the best of U.S. allies, helped the Administrations of U.S. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon in the “secret” Lao Theater. The United States in its effort to combat communist insurgency in Laos, recruited, armed, and trained ethnic minorities. Advised by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),GeneralVangPao’s army of Hmong,Kmhmu, and Lao, gathered military intelligence, rescued downed U.S. air crews, protected U.S. Air Force navigational sites in Laos, and fought North Vietnamese General Vo NguyenGiap’s ever increasing forces to a standstill in Laos for a decade.When, after the fall of Laos, the communists took control, they launched a genocidal campaign to punish or eliminate those who allied with the United States, particularly those who had served in the U.S. Secret Army. Tens of thousands of Hmong escaped across the Mekong River to Thailand and refugee camps. From there, former soldiers and their families eventually were resettled in the United States. Once here, the Hmong adjustment proved difficult, but few Americans knew of their historical alliance with the U.S. adding to their resettlement problems.Because thecampaignswagedbyGeneralVangPaoandGeneralGiap were secret, most Americans knew little, if anything, of the secret war in Laos. Not until almost 20 years after falling to the communists did U.S. Government officials publicly admit the existence and role of the “U.S. Secret Army” in the “secret” Lao Theater of Operation of the Vietnam War. Appearing before Congress, in 1994, the Honorable William E. Colby, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, talked of the “heroism and effectiveness of the Hmong struggle” and the critical role and sacrifice of the Secret Army.In part, Colby said:”For 10 years,VangPao’s soldiers held the growing North Vietnamese forces toapproximatelythesamebattlelines they held in 1962. And significantly for Americans, the 70,000 North Vietnamese engaged in Laos were not available to add to the forces fighting Americans and South Vietnamese in South Vietnam.”After Ambassador Colby’s acknowledgment, a handful of Americans who knew well the Hmong alliance with the U.S. felt it timely to seek official U.S. recognition for the soldiers of the Secret Army and their American Advisors who died in Laos. Mr.Grant McClure, a former U.S. Army Advisor to the Montagnards, became the moving force behind the idea of a permanent Memorial at Arlington to nationally and publicly honor the uncommon sacrifices of the Secret Army. Mr. McClure’s efforts brought together in common cause former CIA Station Chiefs, Vietnam Veterans, Members of Congress, and others who served in civilian and military roles, as well asLieutenantColonelWangyeeVang, founder of Lao Veterans of America, Inc.Finally, after discussions with officials of the U.S. Government and the Lao Veterans of America, whose members number some 55,000 former soldiers and their families of the Secret Army, agreement on a Living Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was reached.On May 15, 1997, some 3,000 veterans of GeneralVang Pao’s army – Hmong and Lao – dressed in jungle camouflage fatigues, flight suits, nurses uniforms stood at attention on the Mall in Washington, D.C. near the Vietnam Wall. Facing them were current Members of Congress, former U.S. Ambassadors, and the CIA Station Chiefs under whom they had served during the time of the “secret war” in Laos. A Congressional citation was read. CIA Station Chiefs paid tribute to the extraordinary contributions of GeneralVang Pao and his brave forces in the fight for freedom in Southeast Asia and assisted in handing out the Vietnam Veterans National Medal.The next day, General Vang Pao and the remnants of his army, again wearing camouflage fatigues, assembled at Arlington National Cemetery. Six deep, they stood at attention for the dedication of the Memorial Monument – a small stone topped with a copper plaque, acknowledging the “secret war” in Laos – and the Hmong, Lao, and American Advisors who valiantly served freedom’s cause in the jungles of Southeast Asia and, in so doing, died in the Lao Theater in the Vietnam War. They will now be forever known and remembered.


Contributed in Loving Respect, September 1999 by Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt,
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Author of Tragic Mountains: The Hmong,
The Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos 1942 – 1992. 

http://www.tragicmountains.org/id16.html

_______________________________________________________

Dedicated To
The U.S. Secret Army In The Kingdom Of Laos 1961 – 1973

In Memory Of the Hmong And Lao Combat Veterans And Their American Advisors Who Served Freedom’s Cause In Southeast Asia.  Their Patriotic Valor And Loyalty In The Defense Of Liberty And Democracy Will Never Be Forgotten

YOV TSHU TXOG NEJ MUS IB TXHIS
LAOS VETERANS OF AMERICA
May 15, 1997

_______________________________________________________

Dedication Ceremony Poem by Dr. Grant McClure, Counterparts: In Memory of Legions Lost and the Soldiers of the Secret War in Laos.
_______________________________________________________

We stand in tribute of forgotten men…for their sacrifice, courage valor and honor. We honor them by this living memorial…starkly beautiful in its simplicity, for it stands defiantly alone, as did those soldiers in their seasons of death. It will serve as a poignant reminder of our battlefield allies, and is a tribute long overdue to proud Human endeavor…courage and valor in a long war lost in the unfulfilled hopes for Southeast Asia.

As the fallen leaves of Autumn in unregimented ranks, Countless unrembered soldiers rest…eternally.  Let us now praise forgotten men… and some there be, Which have no memorial; Who have perished, as though They had never been.
But they served, they died; for cause and by happenstance… Expended in the hopes for Southeast Asia, and will forever be remembered, Mourned for their sacrifice. If by weeping I could change the course of events,

My tears would pour down ceaselessly for a thousand Autumns.

Dr. Grant McClure

Thursday, May 15, 1997
Salute to Lao/Hmong Patriots
& their American Advisors
Arlington National Cemetery

May 23, 2015

Press Release: Lao, Hmong Veterans Arrive in U.S. Congress, Arlington, For 40th Anniversary Ceremonies, New Legislation

Press Release:

Lao, Hmong Veterans Arrive in U.S. Congress, Arlington, For 40th Anniversary Ceremonies, New Legislation

Washington, DC, and Arlington, Virginia, May 14, 2015

Lao- and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War and their families have arrived on Capitol Hill and Washington, DC to somberly mourn the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Kingdom of Laos, and the joint CIA, Air America, and Hmong headquarters at Long Chieng (Long Tieng), to invading North Vietnamese Army forces on May 14-15, 1975. Lao- and Hmong-Americans will also join with the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) and key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the introduction today of the “Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act” in the new session of Congress.

The bill is being introduced today in the U.S. Congress by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Al Franken (D-MN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and others. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA) and Paul Cook (R-CA) are spearheading the introduction of the legislation along with Representatives Sean Duffy (R-WI), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU), Mike Honda (D-CA), Don Young (AK) and others. The bill, if enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama, would allow Lao- and Hmong-American veterans to be buried with honors at U.S. national veterans cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“Lao- and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War and their families from across the United States have arrived on Capitol Hill and Washington, DC to somberly mourn the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Royal Kingdom of Laos, and the joint CIA, Air America, and Hmong headquarters at Long Chieng (Long Tieng), to invading North Vietnamese Army forces in May 14-15, 1975,” said Philip Smith, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA) in Washington, D.C.

Smith continued: “As part of the ‘Laos Freedom Ride’ commemoration, hundreds of Lao- and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War and their families from Minnesota, California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Alaska, and other states  have traveled many miles and are arriving on buses, planes and cars for events in the U.S. Congress and Capitol Hill as well as for a special veterans’ memorial and wreath-laying service on Friday, May 15, in Arlington National Cemetery with the U.S. Department of Defense.”

“Truly, I am honored to be here in our nation’s Capital, Washington, D.C., and Arlington National Cemetery, to be part of the 40th Anniversary Ceremony to honor and pay respect to the Lao- and Hmong veterans, and our U.S. military and clandestine advisors, and to help conduct a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lao Veterans of America monument,” said Richard Vang, President of the Fresno, California-based Lao Veterans of America Institute. “I want to also express my deepest thanks to the U.S. Congress for the introduction of the ‘Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act’ today, when we arrive and meet with the Senators and Representatives.”

“In addition to the veterans’ memorial commemoration that we will be holding tomorrow in Arlington National Cemetery to mark the 40th Anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War in the Kingdom of Laos, I would like to stress that the legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski with Congressman Jim Costa, Congressman Don Young, Senator Dan Sullivan and others, ‘The Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act’, is very important to our Lao and Hmong-American community and veterans. We appreciate them honoring our Lao and Hmong-American veterans and their families, and we are hopeful that the bill will be passed and signed into law by President Obama, so that our veterans can be buried with honor at U.S. national veterans’ cemeteries administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs,” said Pasert Lee, President of the Hmong Alaska Community, Inc. and a wounded combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

“We are very grateful to U.S. Congressmen Jim Costa, Paul Cook, Don Young, Sean Duffy, Devin Nunes, Collin Peterson and many others for their leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives for introducing and supporting the ‘Hmong Veterans Service Recognition Act’ and the events here today in Washington, D.C. Here in the U.S. Senate, we want to especially thank Senators Lisa Murkowski, Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar, Tammy Baldwin, Sheldon Whitehouse, and many others for their efforts on Capitol Hill in introducing the bill today in the U.S. Congress on this important day, May 14, just prior to our memorial service and wreath laying-ceremony tomorrow at Arlington National Cemetery at the Lao Veterans of America monument,” said Pang Mang Thao, the President of the Lao Veterans of America of Minnesota.

Pang Mang Thao is leading a delegation of some 60 Laotian and Hmong veterans, widows, and elders, from St. Paul, Minneapolis, and the Twin Cities area to Washington, DC and Arlington for the events today and Friday (May 14-15). Lao and Hmong-American veterans of the Vietnam War and their families from Minnesota, California, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maryland, Texas, Virginia and other states are participating in the events in the U.S. Congress, Washington, DC and the Lao Veterans of America monument (“Laos Monument”) in Arlington National Cemetery.

In addition to military uniforms, many of the Laotian and Hmong participants will be dressed in traditional, ethnic Laotian and Hmong tribal clothing and outfits for the events.

May 14-15 also commemorates National Lao Hmong Recognition Day, Hmong- Appreciation Day, and Lao Hmong Veterans Memorial Day, and is a day of commemoration for the Lao and Hmong people who lost their lives and country during the Vietnam War when the Kingdom of Laos fell to invading Soviet-backed North Vietnamese Army troops and communist Pathet Lao guerrillas.

###
Contact:
Jade Her or Philip Smith
Center for Public Policy Analysis (CPPA)
Tele. (202)543-1444
info@centerforpublicpolicyanalysis.org

Tags: , ,
May 23, 2015

Ceremony at Arlington honors Hmong

Ceremony at Arlington honors Hmong

Posted: Saturday, May 16, 2015 12:00 am

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. — The old Green Beret stood as erect as age would allow and remembered his lethal times in Laos.

Arrayed before 85-year-old John H. “Scotty” Crerar were Hmong veterans, come together from Fresno; Anchorage, Alaska; and Minneapolis, all the domestic places where a lost war had cast them. Crerar was their blood brother, one who helped train them and fought alongside them.

“We had good students,” Crerar said, “but the part that people forget is that the special forces were learning, too.”

A retired Army colonel with a storied career in special operations, Crerar joined other seasoned Army Special Forces veterans, young congressional staffers and colorfully bedecked Hmong men and women Friday morning in the shadow of an Atlas cedar tree. The Hmong mark May 14-15 as the time when, in 1975, North Vietnamese forces captured the key base used by the CIA and Hmong fighters.

The tree was planted in 1997, next to a small granite marker commemorating Hmong and Lao veterans. The Hmong men, some in suits and a dozen or so in incongruously new camouflage uniforms, and the others were marking a somber anniversary.

Forty years ago, North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao forces finished off the Royal Lao Army. It was the end of the Kingdom of Laos and the start of what is now called the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The 1975 collapse in Laos scattered the Hmong people, who previously had been recruited by Army Special Forces and CIA operatives during the extended war in Southeast Asia. The Hmong had guarded secret bases and rescued downed U.S. airmen, and they made many sacrifices.

By some accounts, upward of 30,000 Hmong died during the secret war, and that does not tally the entire cost.

“Here,” Fresno resident Richard Xiong said through a translator Friday, pointing to his right shoulder, the site of an old war wound.

It came, he said, from an AK-47.

“Here,” former Clovis resident Pasert Lee said in English, pointing to his scalp. “Do you see the scar?”

Artillery, Lee explained.

Between 1961 and 1975, Xiong said, he served with artillery units fighting the communists. Now he is president of the Fresno-based Lao Veterans of America Institute, one of several nonprofit organizations that advocate on behalf of the Hmong community.

Lee said he enlisted to fight the communists on May 21, 1968. He now lives in Anchorage, where he likewise is president of a nonprofit organization aiding the Hmong. Both Lee and Xiong said they came Friday for the same reason.

“This is a celebration for all the veterans,” Xiong said.

Nationwide, there are more than a quarter of a million Hmong living in the United States, many congregated in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Carolina and California’s San Joaquin Valley. Their geographic concentration and the power of their story have given them a little political clout, some of which was on display Friday.

Staffers from the offices of Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Costa, among others, participated in the roughly hourlong program at Arlington National Cemetery. Lawmakers themselves, though detained at the Capitol on Friday by unexpected House votes, already had paid their respects by introducing legislation this week on behalf of the Hmong.

Bills reintroduced by Costa and others in the House of Representatives and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and others in the Senate would authorize the burial of Hmong and Lao veterans in U.S. national cemeteries. The lawmakers previously have introduced similar bills; initially, Costa said, to honor the late Hmong military leader Vang Pao, who died in 2011.

On Friday, Vang Pao’s youngest son, Fresno resident Chi Neng Vang, represented the family at the Arlington cemetery commemoration. The 30-year-old, Southern California-born Vang represented, as well, the new generation who know of the parents’ war only through stories.

“We are here,” Vang said, “to pay our respects.”

April 22, 2015

Thailand plays the Russia card

Thailand plays the Russia card

by Pavin Chachavalpongpun

Click on the link to get more news and video from original source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2015/04/22/commentary/world-commentary/thailand-plays-russia-card/#.VTgXT5OVTQQ

On April 7-8, Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian prime minister to visit Thailand in 25 years. The Russian leader’s visit to Bangkok was excessively publicized both to the benefit of Russia in expanding its presence in Southeast Asia, and to that of the military government of Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocho who took advantage of Medvedev’s high profile visit to legitimize his regime.

While in Thailand, Medvedev signed a number of bilateral agreements with his Thai counterpart, for example, to combat drug trafficking, boost investment and develop Thai energy sector. The two countries were ambitious in their goal to double annual bilateral trade next year to $10 billion.

As reported by the Russian media, around 0.9 percent of ASEAN exports are services to Russia and 2.8 percent of Russian exports are services to ASEAN. Thailand is the leading ASEAN nation trading with Russia at $2.3 billion, leaving far behind Vietnam with $609 million and Singapore at $364 million. Thailand hopes Russia will buy its over-produced rubber. On top of this, it expects to attract more Russian tourists. In 2014, Thailand drew 1.6 million Russian tourists. But so far, the total number is down 8.6 percent this year.

What is more important than the strengthening of diplomatic ties between Thailand and Russia is the fact that Medvedev’s trip to Bangkok came at the time when the Prayuth regime has been heavily criticized by certain Western governments and international organizations. They have condemned the Prayuth government for replacing martial law with sweeping security powers for the military, as an obstacle to the protection of the people’s rights.

Prayuth’s statement perfectly reflected the perception of Thailand vis-a-vis the game of international politics in which his country has been dealing with different great powers. Prayuth said, “Friends prove their worth when one is in trouble. Friends will help and understand,” purportedly to praise the Russian friendship at the expense of the United States, which has taken a harsher stance against his regime.

In response, Medvedev replied, “Thailand is a close friend in the Asia-Pacific region and we have long diplomatic relations. In two years we will mark our 120 years of relations.”

Preparation for Prayuth’s visit to Moscow, which could take place within months, is already underway. It is noteworthy that most Western nations have applied travel bans against top Thai military leaders. So Prayuth’s trip to Russia could be seen as a big slap in the face of these countries.

In Thailand, the exploitation of Medvedev’s visit to consolidate the position of the government has continued. A Thai government spokesperson has confirmed that Thailand will consider buying military weapons from Russia. This news is likely to irritate the U.S., which has long been an arms supplier for Thailand. In reality, however, Russia has always been an alternative source of military equipment for Thailand.

Ten year ago, when Thailand was under the Thaksin Shinawatra government, the country’s ties with Russia were strong. President Vladimir Putin became Russia’s major arms salesman and sought to expand arms sales with Thailand. His efforts was welcomed by Thaksin, who agreed to buy a dozen Sukhoi-30 fighter jets from Russia worth $500 million. In 2015, Russia has subtly engaged itself in Thailand’s political situation to regain its political foothold, a move that has chilled U.S.-Thai relations.

But the renewed friendly relations between Thailand and Russia must be analyzed in the context of the turbulence in the Thai domestic politics. Since the coup of May 2014, an army of Western nations, including the U.S, Australia, and EU states, has imposed soft sanctions against the military junta.

To lessen the impact of Western sanctions, the Thai military government has turned to its neighboring countries to seek their endorsement of its regime. Powerful dignitaries from Myanmar and Cambodia all paid visits to Thailand while offering their support for the military government. China, in particular, is playing the role of a legitimacy provider to the Thai junta, which to a great extent has permitted Thailand to withstand outside pressure.

Now Russia is following in the footsteps of China and some of Thailand’s friends in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But this will only further deepen the level of competition among foreign powers in regards to their relationships with Thailand. Already the U.S. has retaliated, stepped up its criticism of the shrinking of democratic space in Thailand and the continued abuses of human rights there.

In Washington’s latest move, President Barack Obama finally announced his nomination for U.S. ambassador to Thailand, after the post remained vacant for six months. But his choice of Glyn Townsend Davies, the former U.S. special representative for North Korea Policy, has raised many eyebrows.

The U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “A career diplomat, Davies is expected to put his knowledge of crisis diplomacy to good use in the context of Thailand’s uncertain political landscape. Expect Davies to continue calling on the Thai military and interim government to restore democracy and show support for the civil and political rights of the Thai people.” This will surely further put U.S.-Thai ties under strains.

Although the political drama in Thailand is far from over, Medvedev’s trip to Bangkok allowed a convenient break for the junta from the heat. Russia has helped raise the Thai military’s confidence in prolonging its rule of Thailand. But Moscow’s move, unfortunately, will not improve the Thai political situation either now or in the long run.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

 

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