Following the recent issue of a terror warning lead by the US to all of its citizens in Thailand and followed by a dozen or so other nations, the government of Thailand issues a statement recognizing the Palestinian State. But why?
First we have to look at the story that came out just a couple of days before this story. Both the US and Israel issued a terror alert for all of its citizens living in Thailand because of intelligence of a very real and credible threat. Other key nations began to follow suit.
But what was the story before even this one? Thailand has just recovered from one of the worst periods of flooding in over fifty years. Almost a thousand souls perished and the Thai economy took a beating, especially in the area of tourism. This tough period in 2011 followed a very volatile election period and civil unrest in 2010.
Tourism in Thailand is one of its largest national money makers accounting for 7% of its GDP. Thailand is desperate to recover its foreign tourist revenue. The nation is struggling to get back on its feet after fighting the devastating effects of the flooding for many months.
When the US and Israel issued the warning, they essentially scared off many would-be travelers. This infuriated the Thai government who worked hard to down play the threat even though they made an arrest of a Lebanese man with connections to Hezbollah and found bomb large stashes of bomb making materials just outside of Bangkok in Samut Sakorn.
The Nation newspaper in Bangkok reported,
“Foreign Affairs spokesman Thani Thongpakdi said Thailand was disappointed the US had opted to issue its travel alert before consulting the Thai authorities.
“Despite the close monitoring [of the situation] and mutual cooperation between the two countries, the travel warning was issued with a direct impact on Thailand,” he said.
Officials would seek to form an understanding on the issue with the US, he said.”
So it is clear that Thailand was trying to keep some things just between themselves and their US government counterparts in order to minimize the impact on tourism, but the Americans were not going to stay silent when it came to protecting their citizens in Thailand.
A few days later, the Thai government issues a statement officially recognizing the State of Palestine. Bam!
They boldly chose to declare their national support for a Palestinian State to the distain one of their key regional military allies and friends, the US, and one of their key tourist allies and friends, Israel. Many Israelis live in and travel through Thailand over the course of a year. Their numbers in Thailand are increasing according to some reports.
Not the smartest move the government could have made.
What was in it for Thailand?
I can only see it being a clear message to Hezbollah and other such organizations that Thailand is not their enemy. It’s as if they are saying “Please don’t strike here. We desperately need the tourists to keep coming and you are going to mess everything up.” It’s as if they made the statement as a concession for peace rather than simply continuing to take a bold stand against terrorist plots on their soil and standing even stronger for the protection of their Western guests. Could it also be a stab at the US and Israel for issuing the warning without their ok?
I don’t blame our leaders for trying to keep Hezbollah away from Thailand, but I don’t think making this statement did anything to help them. In fact, it only angered two of their best friends who were simply trying to protect their citizens living abroad from a very real and credible threat.
They would do better to work on clamping down on the reasons that international terrorists and criminals consider Thailand a great place to work! In a recent article, Thailand’s Nation Newspaper pointed this out clearly by saying,
“It is an open secret that Thailand is a haven for terrorists as well as transnational criminal groups. For decades, they have been using the country as a center to procure illegal materials (arms, drugs or banned chemical and explosive substances), laundry money, forging foreign currencies and travelling documents. Given its centrality in the continental Southeast Asia with nearly one-thousand flights daily in operation, Thailand remains “the” ideal logistic hub for terrorist operations elsewhere. Still, the concerned Thai authorities are not up to the task.”
Given this reality, Thailand needs to understand that America will “speak straight” and not hide critical warnings from its citizens when it discovers a real and credible imminent threat. It also needs to understand that America is a key ally of the state of Israel and has said that it cannot recognize a Palestinian state as long as it refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and protect itself.