By The Nation
Kobsak Chutikul, secretary-general of the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council, said the withdrawal of Pax Americana, the cornerstone of peace and stability in Asia since the end of World War II, could open a “can of worms”.
Kobsak was speaking at Horasis Asia Meeting, a gathering of 350 international business leaders, government officials and academics at the Shangri-La Hotel.
In the session on “managing the complexity of Asian geopolitics”, he cited the case of Thai-US relations, with the Kingdom being the first American treaty ally in Asia after the signing of the Treaty of Amity in 1833.
“Pax Americana has served us well,” Kobsak said, citing the example of US decision not to penalise Thailand for siding with Japan since a Thai government-in-exile in Washington during World War II refused to sign a pact with Tokyo. Thailand was also supported by the US when it joined the United Nations as an independent nation.
In addition, the late HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in the US, the only monarch to have been born there. These factors, among others, have underpinned the foundation of Thai-US relations as part the United States’ broader Asia relations.
Kobsak said there were two schools of thought on the Trump presidency. One saw it as a happy outcome since Thailand had not joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Another, more pessimistic, view evidenced concerns that Thailand would lose its latitude of choices that it had come to enjoy. “In Southeast Asia, we engage in all kind of hedges,” Kobsak said.
With the reduced US role in Asia, “if that takes away the choice, we will feel the pressure”.
Will the US respect Japan, Korea or Asean sufficiently? “No one knows,” Kobsak said, adding that it was a valid question going into 2017.
Kobsak quoted an article written by outgoing US President Barack Obama arguing that the TPP would enable the United States to write the rules regarding global trade in the 21st century. Without the TPP, he added, China will by default set the rules, perhaps creating a new “Pax Sinica”.