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Surapong sold out Thailand's for myopic interests

After a 90-minute session of clarification on the invitation of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to Thailand on Friday by caretaker foreign minister Surapong Tohvijakchaikul, Ministry for Foreign Affairs' senior officials concluded without any hesitation that he had no clue of potential repercussions from his personal actions. Worse still, he has been the country's foreign minister all along for the past two years, revealing the low level of diplomatic literacy.

Of all the forty foreign ministers in the past 232 years since the founding of Krungthep, which has maintained independence and freedom, Surapong is among the worst of all time. He has completely sold out his country for personal royalty and interests of Thaksin Shinawatra. Fortunately for Thailand though, Thaksin and Noppadol Pattama, his trusted lieutenant, could have rival Surapong's records if both of them served as foreign ministers in 1994 (three months) and 2008 (five months) respectively for much longer period.

Lo and behold, by inviting Ban Ki-moon over here, Surapong did not even realize that his personal decision was tantamount to acknowledging Thailand as a failed state. He told in a complete denial mode when he told the ministry's officials that he wanted to the UN to help mediate the conflict to stop the so-called "extreme violence" particularly the last two week of February, which killed innocent people and four children. He wanted the UN to discover the truth as soon as possible.

That might be a good reason to invite outsiders for mediation if the situation was out of control. But the senior officials argued that was not the case. Furthermore, if the situation was as described, the conflicting parties should also consent to the proposed UN role—not unilaterally done by him. A top foreign ministry official, attending the meeting, commented that Surapong was actually very proud of the UN chief's invitation. "He thought he has done something new in the history of Thai diplomacy in the field of preemptive diplomacy," he emphasized.

During the Friday's meeting, he still had the audacity to defend his action saying that he wanted Ban, who has since then turned down the invitation, to know the truth about the political conflict in Thailand. He naively believed that Ban would respond to his invitation and find out the real perpetrators under his watch. Surapong told the Thai media as if he had consulted with the senior officials on his decision. What he fell to mention was that nobody agreed with him on the UN intervention. He went ahead anyway. Ironically, last week he even alluded to Thaksin's infamous comment on the UN role that "UN is not (Thailand's) father" as a sign of confidence that Thailand is not afraid of UN and is open for the world body's scrutiny.

In the past two statements on the situation in Thailand from Ban's office at the end of February, he expressed readiness to assist Thailand through his good office. Some Bangkok-based diplomats observed that the UN chief is eager to engage in settling political conflicts in Asia because it would look good on his UN legacy. He has been in this top UN position for the past seven year and still without any impressive record on the Asian affairs. Also, his role elsewhere such as in the Syrian crisis was also a thumb down.

In Thai political realm, the patron-client system and populist policies, excelled by Thaksin and his cronies, have not only eating into the country's overall economic health but also seriously undermining Thailand diplomatic finesse. Its leading role in the region has been subdued by personal interests. The Thai-Cambodian relations for the past decade has been help hostages by these horrible practices.

In one of the press briefings, Surapong credited himself for the real-time lived broadcasts of the Preah Vihear/Praviharn Temple disputes at the Hague. Truth be told, it was not his idea. The chief Thai defense team, Ambassador Virachai Plasai, proposed the idea learning the lessons from the previous hearing at International Court of Justice. As a minister, he should have given credits to his subordinates instead of taking constructive initiatives as his own.

When Surapong was given the post by Thaksin, his first job was to return his passport confiscated by the ministry in 2010 as he was a running fugitive. Throughout the past two years, Surapong has done everything to fulfill Thaksin's wishes including promoting ties with the region which Thaksin has major economic stakes. Africa immediately comes to mind.

Under his leadership, officials who served Thaksin well while he has been living in exiles were awarded with ambassadorial and other senior posts. Top Thai diplomats in some of key capitals were appointed only on the virtue of having closed ties with Thaksin and his families. These diplomats are protocol officers serving these narrow personal interests, not representing Kingdom of Thailand.


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