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Foreign minister sheds light on diplomacy in the ‘new normal’


The Covid-19 outbreak has changed the landscape of modern diplomacy as many countries have employed lockdown measures and prohibited international flights, prompting diplomats to adapt their working style and rely on digital technology to keep in touch with their counterparts, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said in an exclusive interview with The Nation recently.

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“Without Covid-19, the shift to digital technology would have been gradual and possibly at a smaller scale compared to what we are experiencing now,” he said. “Though face-to-face meetings are the best mode of communication for diplomats, meeting via video conferencing is the next best thing to keep diplomatic workflow continue uninterrupted during the outbreak.”

Don, who doubles as deputy premier, added that the Thai diplomats’ most important mission in the past year has been to seek cooperation in handling the outbreak. “Meeting with foreign partners has helped us learn more about the virus and its impact from several aspects,” he said. “All parties agree that we need to work together at an international level to prevent the virus from spreading.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Thailand in October, when the Covid-19 situation began improving in his country and Thailand had been successful in effectively controlling the outbreak.

Foreign minister sheds light on diplomacy in the ‘new normal’

“This visit helped strengthen ties between Thailand and China, as well as push forward the development of a high-speed railway line that will connect the Eastern Economic Corridor with Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau,” Don said. “The Thai and Chinese diplomats also discussed strategies to promote the transportation of Covid-19 vaccine to ensure comprehensive and impartial distribution among people of both countries.

“The lockdown measures imposed earlier this year have brought travel to a halt, but this does not mean all foreign policies will be put on hold too,” he said.

“We should view the lockdown as an opportunity to show foreign partners that Thailand’s efficient handling of the outbreak has resulted in fewer infections and high recovery rate. This will help make Thailand a medical and healthcare hub in the region as well as lead to cooperation in other aspects such as political, national security, trading and investment in countries that have been hit by the outbreak.”

The Foreign Ministry is committed to implementing the government’s 20-year national strategy based on security, sustainability, standard, status and synergy, he added.

“In terms of security, the ministry has been seeking cooperation from foreign superpowers and maintaining a balanced relationship with all parties to avoid creating an international conflict. We have also been working with Asean members to strengthen our negotiating power as well as boost regional collaboration to fight the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Don.

“As for sustainability, the ministry has been using diplomatic strategies to build economic links both regionally and globally by means such as promoting a multilateral cooperation in Mekong region, attracting investors in targeted industries to establish their facilities in Thailand, as well as promoting qualitative tourism with foreign partners by using food stability and health tourism to penetrate new markets.

“In the [international] standards aspect, the ministry has been working with related agencies in revising Thailand’s laws and regulations to be in compliance with international standards and obligations, which will help us achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals [SGDs],” Don added. “In the past year, Thailand ranked first among Asean countries in terms of progress in fulfilling the UN SGDs.

“In terms of status, the ministry has presented Thailand’s success in Covid-19 prevention and healthcare management to international audiences and the Kingdom is now recognised as a responsible member of the global community. Thailand was also named ‘a champion of soft power diplomacy’,” he added.

“Lastly, in the synergy aspect, the ministry has gathered best practices in Covid-19 handling from foreign partners around the world and adapted it to Thailand’s situation. It has also collaborated with other countries in vaccine research and sharing of treatment plan and medical equipment.”

The foreign minister further added that Thai missions overseas are at the forefront of helping Thais stranded overseas during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Furthermore, they will be the first ‘Thailand Team’ to be responsible for building international ties to revive Thailand’s economy once the situation improves,” he said.

 

Published : December 23, 2020

By : THE NATION