September 27, 2013 00:00
By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
Prime minister to make kingdom's case for seat on UN Security Council; Moscow visit set for December, no confirmation of a date yet from Washington
PRIME MINISTER Yingluck Shinawatra is planning to visit the United States and Russia, two of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), sometime this year to secure their backing for Thailand's bid to serve in the UNSC in 2017-18
Moscow has written to the Thai Foreign Minister confirming that it was ready to host Yingluck on December 9-10, a source working with an ad hoc panel on foreign strategy said, though no schedule has been sent in by Washington so far.
Though moves to schedule her official trips to the US and Russia began last year, the domestic political situation held things back, the source said.
Since taking office on August 5, 2011, Yingluck has visited three other UNSC permanent members - China on April 17-20 last year and again on September 1-3 this year, France on July 20-21 last year and the United Kingdom from November 12-15 last year.
If elected for the 2017-18 term, this will be the second time for Thailand to serve as one of the 10 non-permanent members on the Security Council. The first time it served was in 1985-86. The UNSC has 15 members, including five veto-wielding permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States - essentially the powers that helped win World War II, after which the United Nations was established.
The US government has reportedly said it was ready to host Yingluck as a state guest after Barack Obama. However, no date has been confirmed.
On Monday, Thailand will host a reception in New York to formally inform the international community that it will seek a non-permanent seat on the UNSC. Thailand's delegation to the UN General Assembly and its permanent representative to the UN have been busy calling on counterparts from many countries to brief them of its intention and ask for support.
"Every country, big or small, has one vote, so we have to meet as many as possible, notably those we know only a little," Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary at the Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday.
The theme for Thailand to serve on the UNSC this time is to bridge the gap between developed and developing members for peace and development.
"Our moderating diplomacy can construct a compromise of all stances for the mutual benefit of all. I think we have the ability to build a consensus around many disputes," he said.
Thailand has contributed to the UN's affairs consistently and continuously. Its peacekeeping force has joined the UN's blue beret contingents in many conflict-ridden places around the globe. Security in the modern world is not only state security and conflict is not only conflict among nations. New emerging conflicts are sometimes between state and civic groups.
"The UNSC has to consider conflict and security in new dimensions as well as the link between security and development," said Sihasak.
"Post-conflict resolution and the restoration of lasting peace are based on development work."
The Foreign Ministry has charted a campaign strategy along geographical lines. Pacific island states, Africa and Latin America are in priority.
"Strategically, we don't approach UN members merely to ask them to vote for us but offer what we can do for them in terms of security and development concerns as well as UN development agendas," he said.
Countries will be approached in different ways - bilaterally and multilaterally. Many forums such as the Africa Institute and Forum for East Asia-Latin America Cooperation, for which Thailand is the coordinator, would be utilised.
Asean, of which Thailand is a member, would not only be asked to give direct support but also to help Thailand seek the backing of countries outside the grouping. Thailand is Asean's candidate, so all members are expected to aid its bid.
Prime Minister Yingluck and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul would work to secure support from their counterparts.
The Thailand International Development Cooperation Agency would play an important role in this campaign, contributing in cash and kind to UN members.
Besides the wide campaign, the Foreign Ministry has continued trade-off support among UN members since the proposal to be a candidate for UNSC non-permanent membership was approved by the Cabinet in 2009.
Usually, there are several vacancies among the 10 non-permanent seats of the UNSC, which are allocated to five regions. Thailand will apply under the Asian quota, which has only one seat in 2017-18, and Kazakhstan is now a major rival for Thailand.
The election for the 2017-18 term will be held during the 71st UN General Assembly in October 2016. "This government, following governments and officials at the ministry, would work hard until that day," said Sihasak.
The campaign might need some funds in addition to the regular budget for some special projects.
"But, basically most of the tasks for the campaign get by with routine work," he said.
The benefits from a position in the UNSC might not be quantifiable but it could raise the profile of the country by playing a greater role in the international community.