US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Thailand today “for Flood Assistance” (from US Embassy e-mail). Clinton will meet with Yingluck tonight at Government House – there will also be a press conference – and tomorrow morning will visit Thai flood victims at the evacuation center at Ratchamangala Stadium in Bangkok before departing to Indonesia tomorrow for the ASEAN Summit Meeting. Kavi on the background to the visit:
While she is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with each of the leaders attending the summit, the highlight of her Bali trip will be the 30-minute meeting with US President Barack Obama. This is of huge importance; the prime minister will have to choose her words very carefully when she expresses views on how to promote Thai-US relations. She skipped the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Honolulu on Friday, which immediately drew sympathy from US State Secretary Hilary Clinton. The US has been very enthusiastic in utilising the flood crisis to rejuvenate Thai-US relations, providing Bt33 million worth of assistance to victims and relief organisations.
…In fact, Clinton decided to cut short her visit to the Philippines this week just to make a 17-hour pit stop in Bangkok on Wednesday, which was not included in the original itinerary. Besides meeting with Yingluck and giving a press conference, Clinton will also engage in activities to demonstrate the US’ good will.
In Honolulu, Clinton underscored the importance of Thai-US relations, saying the US will consult with Thai officials on future plans to assist Thailand and increase its capacity to deal with natural disasters.
In a speech last week, Clinton said that the United States was “updating” relationships with its five treaty-bound regional allies – Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.
“These five alliances are the fulcrum for our efforts in the Asia-Pacific,” Clinton said at the East-West Center in Honolulu.
While US policymakers have been upbeat about the Philippines under Aquino, they have been concerned over Thailand after an extended period of political chaos.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of coup-ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, came to power only in August and has come under intense pressure as she tackles major floods that have threatened the capital Bangkok.
The State Department official said Clinton would offer a “very substantial” aid package to Thailand and hoped to reach out to the public in America’s oldest Asian ally.
“One of the messages that the secretary will bring directly to the Thai people and the government is that we believe it is in the national security and political interest of the United States to have this government succeed,” the official said.
“We will do what we can to support that going forward. There are substantial tensions in Thailand and those tensions will not be resolved after one or even a few elections,” he said.
BP: This government? Not sure the Democrats will be happy with use of the word “this” then again given the formation of Abhisit’s government occurred in an army barracks, BP thinks is directed at the Thai military – and their role in politics – and those in the establishment more than the Democrats.
btw, of course, there are geopolitical reasons with the influence of China and the US wanting to “reengage” Asia – see Clinton’s article in Foreign Policy on the Obama Administration’s view of Asia….