November 09, 2012 00:00 By PRAVIT ROJANAPHRUK
The United States should stay out of the South China Sea territorial dispute and leave it up to China and other involved nations to sort things out, former politician Narongchai Akarasanee said.
He was a Cabinet member under Anand Panyarachun's administration and is currently chairman of the board of directors MFC Asset Management.
Narongchai was speaking at a talk on “What happens after the US election” hosted by the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association of Thailand on Wednesday. US President Barack Obama is expected to stop off in Bangkok on November 18, and Narongchai said Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra should use this as an opportunity to advise the president to not “interfere” in issues such as this.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia as well as an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University, said his agency was trying to convince Obama to speak up about the violation of human rights in Cambodia while he is in Phnom Penh for the Asean Summit later this month. As for the US policy towards Thailand, he said he did not expect any significant changes.
When asked if he was disappointed about Obama’s policies during his first term, such allowing the army to use drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan and accidentally killing scores of civilians, his silence over the suppression of demonstrators in Bahrain and the incarceration of WikiLeaks’ whistle-blower Private Bradley Manning, Robertson said: “We have been very disappointed with President Obama on human rights. Burma has yet to release all its political prisoners. We thought Obama would bring real change.”
However, he said, he hoped things would get better during the president’s second term.
Robert Fitts, director of American Studies Programme at Chulalongkorn University and a former American diplomat, said there was always a trade-off on human rights such as the US having to compromise with China on the subject. However, he said, engaging with the US can be beneficial as he cited the Indonesian military, which he said had become better after working with its American counterpart.
He also defended the use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, saying sending troops could lead to a “mess on the ground”.
Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary of the Foreign Ministry, said Obama’s re-election would likely ensure continuity of US foreign policy, and urged the president to engage more with Asean and help strengthen regional unity and cohesiveness.