Trump-Prayut phone call: What does it really mean?

LOTS of reports had been written in the Thai mainstream media about Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha accepting an invitation to visit the White House extended by US President Donald Trump during a brief phone conversation on Sunday but almost none other than a social media page did a good job of reading between the lines as to what such a move by Trump really means to Thailand.

Most of the newspapers just reported that President Trump called both Prayut and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as he marked his first 100 days in office to address his commitment to longstanding alliances in the context of stability in the Asia-Pacific region, notably the Korean Peninsula.

They quoted deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak saying in the conversation, PM Prayut congratulated President Trump on his election and first 100 days as president.  PM Prayut also thanked President Trump for his message of condolences last year on the passing of HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, he said, adding that the introductory call lasted around 15 minutes with no specific issue dominating the conversation.

But Pat Hemasuk, a popular writer on Facebook with almost 100,000 followers, went a step further by analyzing and reading between the lines the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary’s readout of President Trump’s phone call with PM Prayut on April 30, which says:

“President Donald J. Trump spoke today with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha of Thailand. The two leaders underscored their commitment to the longstanding alliance between the United States and Thailand, which actively contributes to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.  President Trump and Prime Minister Prayut expressed a strong shared interest in strengthening the trade and economic ties between the two countries. President Trump affirmed the commitment of the Unite States to playing an active and leading role in Asia, in close cooperation with partners and allies like Thailand, and invited Prime Minister Prayut to the White House.”

Mr Pat pointed out that in the past, announcements from the White House in the Obama’s administration used to address PM Prayut as coup leader, head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), or head of a military-dominated government but this time around as seen above he was addressed as Prime Minister Prayut of Thailand. “That’s the honor Prime Minister Prayut deserved long time ago.”

He said relations between Thailand and US cooled during Barack Obama’s administration due to the former president’s criticism of the Prayut-led military coup in 2014 and his comments on the suppression of human rights and democracy as well as aviation standard.  But as seen above, President Trump has been more lenient expressing a strong interest in strengthening the trade and economic ties between the two countries. “That’s an offer Thailand probably cannot refuse as under the Trump administration, Thailand is still listed on the US unfair trade ‘watch list’.”

In addition, he said, when President Trump said US will play an active and leading role in Asia it means US is keen to limit the role of China in this region.  So, it’s understandable as to why he phoned to talk with leaders of the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.


Top: US President Donald Trump and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Photo:

By Kowit Sanandang


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