Strengthening Relations between Thailand and the United States

Program Year: 2018

By Thomas Parks

The Asia Foundation is leading a series of programs to encourage stronger relations between Thailand and the United States.

Thailand is America’s oldest friend and ally in Asia, a connection dating to the presidency of James Monroe. However, bilateral relations have been under strain in recent years with the growing influence of China and the challenges associated with the 2014 coup d’état. With Thailand preparing to return to elected government and assume the rotating chair of ASEAN in 2019, it is important now to renew this longstanding strategic relationship.

In July, the Foundation brought together prominent Thai and U.S. leaders for a bilateral dialogue (track 1.5 level) in Washington. Led by former Thai prime minister Chuan Leekpai and former assistant secretary of state Stapleton Roy, the delegations included 14 prominent leaders on each side, including political leaders, diplomats, security officials, business leaders, and relevant experts. The dialogue included meetings with senior policymakers from the U.S. Senate, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The dialogue produced extensive recommendations, to be made public later this month, on trade, defense, business, and people-to-people linkages to meet the emerging geopolitical challenges in Asia. The Foundation will conduct a series of follow-up roundtables in late 2018 with leaders and policymakers in Washington and Bangkok.

This program also focuses on Thailand’s digital transformation. With one of the highest rates of social media usage in the world, Thailand has enormous potential to improve competitiveness and address development challenges through digital technology. Several major U.S. technology firms participated in the dialogue in Washington and will be involved in follow-up dialogues in Thailand later this year. 

The Foundation has also been researching the current state of Thai-U.S. relations. A ten-month study, concluded in June, exploring the views and recommendations of prominent Thai and U.S. leaders, was shared with the delegations to the bilateral dialogue in July. The Foundation also supported a survey by the American Studies Association of Thailand exploring university students’ views of the U.S.-Thai relationship. Both of these studies will be released in September.

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