Did Prayut’s US trip only serve Trump’s trade agenda?
THE MEETING between Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and US President Donald Trump appeared to satisfy both governments, with the Thai junta heartened by the welcome by a western superpower while the US encouraged Thailand to take up a range of deals.
Thai citizens, however, are split on the visit. Suan Dusit Poll’s result released on Sunday said that more than 70 per cent of people were positive about strengthening ties, but opinions on social media raised concerns that the junta had signed multi-million-dollar deals, including concessions on pork imports to the agriculturally rich Kingdom, to boost its legitimacy. Prayut had prepared protocols for half a year since Trump invited him to visit in an April phone call. The Thai premier started off by paying condolences to victims of recent US hurricanes before addressing cooperation on security and regional issues.
Prayut also managed to praise the president’s wife Melania and daughter Ivanka for their support for people with fewer opportunities. Ivanka has been invited to observe highly promoted efforts to combat human trafficking in Thailand.
Trump in turn said it was a great honour to host “Prime Minister Prayut of Thailand and Mrs Prayut”, in a reference to Naraporn Chan-o-cha, the prime minister’s wife. “So we have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it’s getting stronger in the last nine months,” Trump said, reiterating his administration’s benefits-based approach, which places less emphasis on human rights and democratic values than his predecessors.
Trump wasted no time in pointing out during the meeting that “we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you, now make that a little bit better if that’s possible”.
The president then went on at length about addressing the damage in hurricane-struck Puerto Rico and in Las Vegas after the mass shooting in the city in his closing remarks.
The two leaders then posed for handshakes with Trump and Melania, dressed in the newest Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2018 dress, standing on narrow red carpet with Prayut and Naraporn incongruously standing next to them on the plain ground.
The meetings followed an agreement on Thai gas investments in Ohio, a private sector US$6-billion (Bt200-billion) purchase of coal, and discussions about opening Thailand’s pork and turkey markets. While Prayut said he had not discussed new military hardware deals, Thailand proceeded to obtain Harpoon missiles and Black Hawk and Lakota helicopters from the US.
Kai Maew drew three-panel cartoons on his Facebook page mocking Prayut for rowing a coconut shell, an oft-used Thai metaphor for people with closed attitudes, carrying the purchases away.
“Prayut’s current condition is like he had an appointment with a famous friend. He was so happy before finding out that friend actually wanted to do a direct sale to him,” one comment said.
courtesy of Facebook page Kai Maew