บทความผู้ที่ได้รับรางวัล Major Ken Webb Annual Writing Award พ.ต.คมกฤช และ พ.ต.รวิโรจน์ นทน.หลักสูตรหลักประจำ ชุดที่ 96
Thailand – United States Relations:
Diplomacy, Military, and Values
Thai US Cadet Group at
CGSC (Command and General Staff College, Royal Thai Army)
Major Rawiroj (Robert) Kasemsri Na Ayudhaya
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina
Class of 2005
Major Komgrit Kotcharaksa
Virginia Military Institute (VMI)
Class of 2007
29 January 2018
Thailand and the United States have celebrated over 180 years of diplomatic relations in 2013. Bilateral relations between the two countries have been dated since the early 1800s. Since then, both Thailand and the United States have been close allies and critical diplomatic partners. It was recorded that the first contract between the two countries occurred in 1818, when an American ship anchored with a letter from then U.S. President James Monroe. Thailand became the first country in Asia to form a diplomatic agreement with the United States. As a result, several other collaborations have been initiated and propelled, but always under a common goal, which is for the mutual benefit of both countries.
It is very difficult to express the importance of Thailand and United States relations because there are just so many different levels of collaboration, such as diplomatic, military, science, law enforcement, intelligence, medicine, and monarch. However, this article will provide examples emphasizing diplomatic and military relations.
As allies, Thailand had obtained and adopted many concepts from the United States. One of the most important transformation and revolution in Thai society was the abolishment of slavery. Slavery ended in the United States on December 18, 1865, exactly 152 years ago. The attempt to end slavery in the United States resulted in the breakout of the Civil War. Union and Confederate soldiers have lost their lives for this important cause. At the same time, King Chulalongkorn (Rama the V of Thailand) had plans to annihilate slavery in Thailand. Believing that all men are created equally and that no Thais should be treated inhumanely, King Chulalongkorn have sought for ways to end slavery in Thailand. Understanding that the Thai culture, at the time, is very different from western countries, King Chulalongkorn have adopted U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s policy to end slavery, with the brilliant mindset that the transformation needs to span over a long period of time. Sudden and rapid changes to end slavery in Thailand will result in turmoil, conflict, revolution, and war inevitably, as exemplified in the U.S. Civil War.
Consequently, it took Thailand about 30 years to completely abolish slavery. Thus, on April 1, 1905, King Chulalongkorn passed the Slavery Abolishment Act 124. This is very similar to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, stating that “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Afterwards, the Senate passed the 13th Amendment in April of 1864. King Chulalongkorn is forever worshipped by Thais all over the world. Many people revered him for many various things, but the abolishment of slavery became the symbol of King Rama V of Thailand, an ornament that ties Thai hearts with the monarch.
Another incident that shows relation between Thailand and US, on December 5, 1927, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (King Rama IX of Thailand) was born at Cambridge Hospital (currently Mount Auburn Hospital) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the Prince of Songkla, was enrolled in the public health program at Harvard University at the time. King Bhumibol is the only monarch in Thailand to be born on United States soil.
After 70 years of reign under King Bhumibol, Thailand has fought through various kinds of hardship, depression, crisis, coup d’etat, and other conflicts. Several royal projects resulted from King Bhumibol’s vision, leading to improvements at the national level for Thailand. For a monarch to be born on foreign soil symbolizes something more than just diplomatic relations. It is merely a bond between two countries, pride that will forever be instilled in the hearts and minds of the Thai and American people. King Bhumibol died on October 13, 2016. He was 88.
There were many exchanges of high level visits between Thailand and United States. King Bhumibol has paid two visits to the United States — first in 1960, and again in 1967. President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton visited Thailand in November of 1996 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne. This marked the first visit by a sitting U.S. President since the visit of President Richard Nixon 27 years earlier, in 1969. In October of 2003, President George W. Bush visited Bangkok to attend the APEC Summit Meeting. President Bush returned again in August of 2008, when he attended a meeting with then Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. On his first trip abroad after his re-election, President Barack Obama visited Bangkok from November 14-15, 2012. President Obama was welcomed by then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and had an audience with King Bhumibol. On the most recent occurrence, on October 2, 2017, General Prayut
Chan-o-cha, current Prime Minister of Thailand, and his wife, Mrs. Naraporn Chan-o-cha, paid an official visit to the White House, in response to the invitation by President Donald Trump.
Another piece of evidence that display the strong relations between Thailand and the United States is the parliamentarian relationship. The Congressional Friends of Thailand Caucus (FoTC) was established on September 24, 2009 and has since been co-chaired by congressmen from both the Democrat and Republican parties. In addition, there is membership from both sides of the aisle. The objectives of the Caucus are to provide a forum for an exchange of ideas on the Thai – United States relationship, as well as strengthening America’s long-term partnership with Thailand. This is done to better tackle our common challenges and explore potential opportunities in the region.
Like many countries in the world, Thailand has suffered at the hands of World War I and World War II. Over time, it became dominant to the Thai people that the United States is a true friend. It has always been the American people that continuously view the Thai people as important allies.
It was during these time that Thailand the United States develop important military relations that would last for future generations, even until now. At the end of World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as superpowers. Shortly after that, the United States entered the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Again, as close allies, Thailand supported the United States into whichever war the U.S. is engaged in.
Royal Thai Army soldiers from the 21st Infantry Battalion (now the 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard), fought alongside at the Battle of Porkchop Hill in October and November of 1952. It was at this important battle that Thai soldiers were awarded the prestigious Legion of Merit, Silver Stars, and Bronze Star Medals. The Royal Thai Army 21st Infantry Battalion was given the nickname “Little Tigers” by General James Van Fleet, commander of the 8th US Army. Also in November of 1950, two Thai warships, HTMS (His Thai Majesty’s Ship) Prasae and HTMS Bangpakong, entered the Korean War. They two ships served under the command of the United Nations. The HTMS Prasae ran aground near Yangyang Province in Korea, and was never recovered. In 1955, the Royal Thai Navy sent two more ships, the HTMS Prasae II and the HTMS Tachin. Furthermore, in September of 1950, the Royal Thai Air Force sent 22 Air Liaison Officers Team to the United Nations Command, about 29 Air Nursing Teams served from 1950-1974, and 29 airlift mission teams served from 1951-1971. Overall, Thailand dispatched 11,786 soldiers into the Korean War, and 136 Thai soldiers have given up their lives. In remembrance to this war, a monument was built in Pocheon City, South Korea, to honor the Thai soldiers. At the same time, a monument can be found at the Royal Thai Army’s 21st Infantry Regiment, Queen’s Guard, in Chonburi Province, Thailand. The monument symbolizes brotherhood between Thailand and South Korea. Regular visits to the monument as a form of respect frequently occur whenever senior military officers from South Korea and the United States visit Thailand.
In May of 1967, Mr. Thanat Khoman, Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, mentioned that Thailand voluntarily entered the Vietnam War for several causes; one was to protect the country from threats and insecurity. It is believed that the other main reason was in support of the partnership with the United States. At the time, the United States was the only power that can relinquish Thailand from the influences of communism. Thailand geographically was in a strategic position in Southeast Asia, vital for U.S. military operations in Vietnam. With the rise of ideologies from groups such as Viet Cong, Khmer Rouge, and Pathet Lao, the Thai government was in desperation to seek ways battle communism in the region.
Thailand and the United States signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1833. Supposedly, this was the first U.S. treaty that was signed with any country in Asia. Furthermore, the collaboration strengthened more concretely after the end of World War II. It was certain that Thailand would stand with the United States in this war as well.
From 1961 to mid 1970s, the United States constructed many air bases at various provinces in Thailand, including Nakhon Ratchasima, Udon Thani, Nakhon Phanom, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen, Utapao, and Bangkok. Utapao Airport is still functional today, commercially and militarily. The airbases were commanded by Thai officers, though space and activities were largely occupied by American troops. More than 400 aircrafts and 25,000 personnel can be found on these airbases, with more than 80 percent of airstrikes in North Vietnam were carried out from these airbases.
Military relations are one of the key collaboration spectrums one can notice immediately when talking about Thailand and the United States. It is rather common knowledge to point out that doctrines being used in the Thai military was merely translation pieces from U.S. military doctrines. This does not apply only in the Royal Thai Army, but also in the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Air Force, and the Royal Thai Marine Corps.
In the Royal Thai Army, evidences of U.S. presence can be found in the organization of the structure. Royal Thai Army personnel find themselves using U.S. based equipment, ranging from the M60 Patton main battle tanks to the M16 rifles. At the tactical level, maneuvering doctrines, such as offensive, defensive, and retrograde operations, were replicates of U.S. military tactics. When it doubt, solutions can always be found referencing the FMs (Field Manuals).
To understand more about Thailand and United States relations, specifically military relations, one can obtain more knowledge about military educational institutions of the two countries. As Thai soldiers, experiences gathered inside the gates of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina and Virginia Military Institute (VMI) are qualities that can represent core values between the two countries. For decades, Thai cadets have been enrolled at the United States Military Academy (West Point), The Citadel, VMI, United States Naval Academy, and United States Air Force Academy.
One may ask about similarities that can be drawn as a Thai and U.S. cadet. There are many things in common, but there are also many differences. All of these qualities are unique in their own particular ways. Thai cadets in the United States have always agreed that the Honor System that was instilled among them when they were young cadets is the important thing they have learned. At all military institution, a sign that reads, “A Cadet does not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do” can be found above the gates of each battalion. That was the Honor System that was injected into each cadet’s veins.
As the Thai cadets look down at their class rings on their right hands, they capture and reflect the moments that were upon them in the past. They reminisce the days where the values of honor was taught, demonstrated, and punished before them, with the realization that an American within them will always be there forever, giving guidance and friendship.
Thailand and the United States will continue to increase collaboration. Just like every country, there are difficulties that may interfere the relationships. However, it is more important to note that these road bumps are temporary, and will be overcome.
After two centuries, the partnership remains robust. Thailand and the United States jointly looks forward to increasing the collaboration spectrum. At the same time, current collaborations will also expand at various levels.
Busbarat, P. (2017, August 7). Thai-US Relations in the Post-Cold War Era: Untying the Special Relationship. Asian Security. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com
Fineman, D. (1997). A Special Relationship: The United States and Military Government in Thailand, 1947-1958. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.th
Jackson, K. and W. Mungkandi (1986). United States-Thailand Relations. Research Papers
and Policy Studies. Retrieved from http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu
Martin, J. (2011, March 1). Thai-American Relations in World War II. The Journal of Asian Studies. Retrieved from https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies/article/thaiamerican-relations-in-world-war-ii
Pongsudhirak, T. (2016, January 16). An Unaligned Alliance: Thailand-U.S. Relations in the Early 21st Century. Asian Politics & Policy. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com