Debit where debit is due | 6.06.05

At the risk of appearing a relentless Anand Panyarachun basher (which I’m emphatically not — he was certainly one of Thailand’s better prime ministers), I must draw your attention to this one sentence in the 1,823-word bio he wrote for the UN:

Anand assumed a leadership role in negotiations with the U.S. Government on the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops from Thailand.

Hmmm, I was willing to count that as an achievement; it certainly got almost as many words from Khun Anand as his public-school extracurricular activities (20 versus 27). But then I remembered this passage in General Saiyud Kerdphol’s speech at the Inter-American Defense College in December 1978: [The Struggle for Thailand, p.127]

The hand writing on the wall for Thailand came in 1961 with the Geneva Conference on Laos, where, for the first time, American determination to defend Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia was called into serious question. Subsequently, Thailand grudgingly accepted a neutralist regime in Laos, although this was clearly recognized as the thin end of a communist wedge. Despite the U.S.’s massive intervention in South Vietnam, certain military and diplomatic thinkers in Bangkok thought that Thailand, too, might one day be in the same position as abandoned Laos.

And so it has proved. After the collapse in Indochina, the American exit from Thailand became a clear political necessity, although one might have wished that Thailand had not made it quite so easy by inviting U.S. forces to leave. Bangkok might, for instance, have sought a specific treaty of American assistance against aggression as a condition for U.S. withdrawal, rather than rely on the very loose Manila Pact of 1954 and the Thanat-Rusk Agreement of 1962. Other countries in the region have such foreign assistance pacts, notably Malaysia and Singapore. Even the Vietnamese now have a protective treaty with the Soviet Union. All Thailand can hope for in a crisis is that the American Congress will prove compassionate. That is not at all satisfactory.

[Emphasis mine]

With all due respect to Khun Anand, when it comes to 1970s geopolitics, I’ll take General Saiyud’s word against his any day.

Additionally, Anand’s role in the American pullout was followed immediately in his biography by this:

He also was catalytic in leading efforts for the resumption in 1976 of diplomatic relations with three socialist countries, namely China, Laos and Vietnam.

Please. How about this instead: The Thai government, like all other governments of the Free World, scrambled to reorient themselves along the trail blazed by President Nixon. A good civil servant that he was, Khun Anand was diligent in following his government’s policies.

That should be credit enough for you in this affair, Khun Anand. Hey, at least it’s not a debit!

PS Here’s an unintentionally hilarious account of the normalization of Thailand-China diplomatic ties, written by someone who would have agreed with crediting Khun Anand… as well as Chiang Kai-shek.

Update Having stumbled across his comments about 9/11, I now no longer consider Anand one of Thailand’s better prime ministers.

00:32 ▪ politics

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