Thailand - Foreign policy



Thailand's foreign policies center chiefly around increasing the country's international profile and protecting the country from the mandates of international financial institutions that many Thais believe contributed to the currency crisis of 1997 and Thailand's slow recovery from it. Thailand's important international tourism trade suffered considerably in 2002-2003 due to the Bali bombings and other terrorist threats, and the spread of the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic. Thailand took strong measures to combat SARS, and Thaksin made public statements declaring the country SARS-free. Special meetings were held in Thailand to develop a regional strategy for fighting SARS. At that time, the new Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in his first official foreign visit since taking office, met with Thaksin. Maintaining Thailand's close relationship with China has been of particular importance for Thaksin.

Thailand has outstanding border issues with Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The situation with Myanmar has been particularly tense, with fighting between the Myanmar armed forces and ethnic rebels spilling over into Thailand. Thaksin's government has steadily drawn protests from the European Union, the United States, Canada and others for repatriating thousands of refugees to Myanmar. Thailand received further international criticism for closing refugee camps on its border with Myanmar, and for exploitation of refugees in the sex trade and for cheap labor. Thai relations with Cambodia imploded on 29 January 2003, when rioters in the Cambodian capitol, Phnom Penh, attacked the Thai Embassy and Thai businesses. The riot had its roots in popular Cambodian resentment of Thai economic domination of their impoverished country, but the Cambodian government of Hun Sen is thought to have played a role in stirring up the anti-Thai sentiment. Thailand recalled its ambassador from Cambodia, and only restored normal relations after being promised repayment by Cambodia for the riot damage.

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