Published on Dec 2, 2015
Before the arrival of Ambassador Glyn Davies early in October 2015, Thailand had been without a US ambassador for nearly a year following Kristie Kenney's departure. Davies, 58, a senior career diplomat with three ambassador level postings already on his resumé, was also deputy chief of mission in London from 1999 to 2003. His last position was as senior advisor at the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and from 2012 to 2014 he served as special representative to the secretary of state for North Korea policy.
US diplomatic relations with Siam began in the 19th century and, apart from during the Second World War and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, have been mutually supportive. Thailand remains a non-NATO ally, but in recent years ties have been strained over a broad range of issues, including the place of military coups in the 21st century, the roadmap to democracy, military exercises, the increasing influence of China, refugees, human trafficking, labour, renditions, intellectual copyright, freedom of speech and Wikileaks.
Thailand should prove a stimulating posting. Davies has arrived during a transitional period in its history as it fumbles with a new constitution and the fallout from some of the most polarized politics the kingdom has seen since 1932, some 20 constitutions ago. The region is also in a state of flux with China and the US grinding against each other for influence, Japan contracting and India economically ascendant.
The US is very much on the regional agenda this month. President Barack Obama is attending summits in Manila and Kuala Lumpur, and there will be more talk of his Asia pivot. Tensions between ASEAN, China and the US have stepped up in the South China Sea; the US is pushing its Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and China its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
With so much up for discussion, Ambassador Davies could not have timed his visit to the FCCT better.
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