Dealing with Dictators
Thailand Goes to Russia

Thailand is looking forward to a visit by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, during which the two countries are set to strengthen ties. Among the items on the agenda: cooperating on energy, increasing investment in Thailand, combating drug trafficking, and encouraging tourism. Conspicuously absent: human rights. Reuters reports:

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrives in Thailand on Tuesday for a visit aimed at expanding trade and the ruling military will be keen to highlight international support nearly a year after it ousted an elected government.

Medvedev’s two-day visit follows criticism from some Western countries and the United Nations of sweeping security powers granted to the military last week after martial law was lifted in most areas. […]

Thailand has stepped up engagement with both China and Russia in response to cooler ties with old ally the United States and other Western countries worried about the suspension of democracy and curtailment of some human rights.

Thailand accused the United States in February of meddling in its political affairs.

America’s relationship with Thailand is set to take a hit after Wilsonians criticized Thailand last week when the junta announced it was dropping the rule of martial law it has imposed since the coup in favor of “dictator law.” Russia and China see the spat between Washington and Bangkok as an opportunity, and they’re both going courting.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is supposed to be in the midst of a “pivot to Asia,” which the Obama Administration has identified as essential for a strong American future—and berating a key regional power openly (and almost certainly fruitlessly) is not the best way to go about it. Tempering its outward outrage, while maintaining behind-the-scenes pressure on the regime to reform, might be a better way for the Administration to keep Thailand out of the arms of our geopolitical adversaries.

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