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Game of Thrones: Thailand Edition
Thailand’s Pivot to China Continues

Last week, Thailand and the U.S. held another somewhat scaled-down version of the annual Cobra Gold military exercises. Although the exercises proceeded smoothly, there were no signs of a change in temperature in the frosty Washington–Bangkok relationship. This dynamic doesn’t look good for the United States, as Thailand continues to move into Beijing’s orbit. The latest: China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) could take a dominant position in financing major Thai projects. East By Southeast reports:

Since seizing power, Thailand’s military generals have instead sought to deepen political and economic ties to China, which is now the country’s largest trading partner. “It has been analyzed that any related projects that could benefit the supply chain network and trading routes between the ASEAN region and China would receive great attention from the AIIB,” assesses Nithi Kaveevivitchai.

The Sino-Thai railway link, which aims to transform Bangkok into the hub of China’s ambitious Pan-Asia Railway Network, appears to be a particularly likely candidate for an AIIB infrastructure loan. After months of bumpy negotiations – during which Beijing insisted on downgrading the railway from high-speed to medium-speed – the project saw a breakthrough in January 2016 when China agreed to Thailand’s demand that it slash its interest rate from 2.5% to 2%.

As always, these investments are complicated and the loans may never even be offered. But, for now, it’s clear that Thailand sees Beijing as a plausible alternative to the United States and its allies—particularly Japan, which has been China’s big financial rival in the region. It’s looking more and more likely that a China-allied Thailand will be yet another problem President Obama leaves behind for his successor.

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  • Nawaponrath

    It is not actually scaled down actually it is much bigger in terms of hardware and about 10,000 troops. Thailand has not gotten closer to China as most Western press have voiced. Actually on the contrary Thailand has a very balanced approached as seen by infrastructure projects the Japanese received the cream much more than the Chinese. Future arms procurement are more Western and Russian than Chinese, therefore, your assessment needs correction.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This is all about Obama’s incredible weakness. The next president is going to have to spend a huge amount of time repairing American foreign policy, after 8 years of Leftist Obama’s incompetence.

  • Laurence Levin

    I am not sure I agree with this (although I am not usually a fan of Obama’s foreign policy). Thailand’s politics are volatile and may swing back against the military again especially after the king dies. The US may end up looking good to the next Thai government.

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