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A Very Special Relationship
Thai Junta Falls for China’s Beguiling Charms

We’ve written before that relations may be warming between China and Thailand, but we didn’t mean it as literally as Thailand’s foreign minister seems to. The South China Morning Post reports on remarks by Thai General Tanasak Patimapragorn about Chinese FM Wang Yi:

“If I were a woman I will fall in love with his excellency,” he told reporters in English, much to the surprise of China’s top foreign envoy who appeared somewhat unsure how to respond.

The foreign ministers are currently attending a regional security meeting in Malaysia hosted by the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

General Tanasak, a close confidant of coup leader and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, made his remarks in response to a reporter’s question on Thailand’s diplomatic relations with China.

“At this moment we believe this is the best time for our relationship. Especially for my personal contact with minister Wang Yi who is a very nice and polite person,” he said.

It was then that he made his surprise declaration of love.

As the Thai foreign minister added in the press conference, for clarification: “Let’s say we are so close, we are more than friends, just say we are cousins with a long history together.”

Fun aside, China has been cultivating its relationship with Thailand’s junta, even as the United States has been pouring vinegar on its relationship with its all-too-public denunciations of a vital regional ally. And as we are seeing now, these kinds of things matter. Earlier in the week, several of ASEAN’s members, including the organization’s Secretary General, were pushing hard for the group to take a harder line on China’s behavior in the South China Sea. But they are running up against a wall of opposition from China’s allies in drafting a joint communique:

“China’s friends are taking a hard stance,” said one diplomat familiar with the drafting.

The diplomat did not specify which countries were taking a hard line, but Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar traditionally ally with China within ASEAN.

The tug-of-war raises the specter of a 2012 ASEAN meeting hosted by Cambodia, when the bloc was unable for the first time in its four-decade history to issue a joint statement.

Cambodia was accused of precipitating the debacle by refusing to allow criticism of China over its maritime territorial assertions.

“China has already figured out how ASEAN works on the South China Sea, it knows how to divide us. Look at what happened in Cambodia,” one diplomat at the talks said.

Thailand is not mentioned by name in the reports, but with love so much in the air at this recent press conference, we wouldn’t be surprised if it were part of China’s sabotage party.

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