Maris holds his first press conference as foreign minister

SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 2024

Addressing domestic and foreign media, Maris Sangiampongsa outlines vision for reigniting Thai diplomacy

Maris Sangiampongsa on Friday held his first press conference as foreign minister with both Thai and international media during a “Meet the Press #1” event at the Vites Samosorn Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The event aimed at outlining the foreign-policy direction entrusted to him by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, focusing on three main dimensions.

Dimension 1: Restoring Thailand’s image and urgently rebuilding confidence

Because of past political conflicts, Thailand has missed numerous opportunities and needs to restore its image and regain attention from both regional and global communities. 

The goal is to re-establish Thailand's role in regional and global contexts by promoting business cooperation, trade, investment and tourism, which will significantly impact the economy.

“The prime minister emphasises not only economic relations but also business engagement between Thailand and friendly nations,” Maris said. “The current government’s most critical policy is to communicate to the global community that Thailand has returned to democracy and is now open to business. 

“There has never been a better time to do business with Thailand because of our pro-business government.” 

Maris holds his first press conference as foreign minister

In this dimension, foreign policy will focus on a people-centred economic approach, ensuring that the benefits extend to the grass roots of both countries, fostering more sustainable relations. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to utilise its nearly 100 embassies worldwide and the integrated efforts of Team Thailand to proactively rebuild the country's image. This will involve promoting trade, investment and education and taking a proactive approach by “reaching out to counterparts instead of waiting for them to approach us”. 

The private sector, as the foundation of the value chain, will play a significant role as the “real player,” while the government will facilitate these efforts.

Thailand’s strengths

Thailand’s strategic location between ASEAN and BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) places it at the midpoint between East and West and in proximity to South Pacific countries. This makes Thailand an ideal hub for eight industries under the Ignite Thailand policy.

Another aspect of Dimension 1 involves promoting free-trade agreements with emerging markets in Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia, which have significant potential.

“Particularly in terms of the economy, we aim to penetrate emerging markets as much as possible, enabling the prime minister to make concrete visits to these regions,” Marit pledged.

Dimension 2: Restoring Thailand's leadership role regionally and globally

ASEAN is a cornerstone of this dimension, with Thailand being a founding member. Thailand has led the transition from political cooperation to economic and sustainable cooperation within ASEAN.

“Thailand holds a unique position, with no enemies and friendships with all nations. We aim to help friendly countries solve problems, whether related to major-power competition or not. Both sides know we are friends with the other, and we want to be seen as a bridge,” Maris explained.

In collaboration with friendly countries, Thailand will engage in bilateral and multilateral frameworks such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), focusing on private-sector roles, which will bring significant benefits to Thailand. 

Thailand is also a founder of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and has proposed to chair it in 2025.

Thailand will participate in future multilateral frameworks like BRICS and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), where it will advocate for democracy and a pro-business government.

Dimension 3: Relations with neighbouring countries

The minister emphasised that Thailand places the highest importance on relations with its neighbours. Regarding Myanmar, Thailand focuses on border security and aims to foster joint peace initiatives. 

Thailand is currently involved in addressing issues such as drug trafficking, call centres, and illicit businesses, and seeks to play a significant role in peace negotiations, with a focus on humanitarian aid.

“However, these issues are delicate and must be addressed gradually,” the foreign minister stressed.

In terms of tourism, the policy of "Six Countries, One Destination" encourages collaborative tourism among neighbouring countries through high-speed rail connections.

Soft power also plays a crucial role in Dimension 3. Thailand and its neighbouring countries share common cultural elements. By integrating these cultural ties, greater stability can be achieved.

Maris holds his first press conference as foreign minister

In conclusion, Maris outlined that his ministry’s main policies moving forward will focus on three key areas:

Politics: Emphasising Thailand’s role as a key player in the global community.

Business Cooperation: Promoting joint business initiatives to improve well-being at the grassroots level in both countries.
Society: Strengthening people-to-people relations, which is crucial for sustainable international relationships.

“And all of this constitutes 'Reignite Thai Foreign Policy,'” Maris concluded.