Partners in the Pacific: Thailand
Written by Patricia Giesler, President and CEO
Thailand, known as the Land of Smiles, captivates visitors with its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and exceptional hospitality. It holds strategic importance to the U.S. military due to its location, regional influence, and collaboration on security matters. The alliance between Thailand and the United States was solidified during the Vietnam War when Thailand provided support and hosted U.S. military bases. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, signed in 1962, laid the foundation for their bilateral relationship in defense and national security.
Both countries have strengthened their ties through joint military exercises, training programs, intelligence sharing, and defense trade. Thailand's strategic location in Southeast Asia makes it a vital hub for U.S. military activities, including humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, counterterrorism, and maritime security. JUSMAG (Joint US Military Advisory Group) Bangkok, Thailand is a U.S. military advisory group that supports the U.S.-Thailand military partnership, facilitates defense engagements, and assists the Thai military. Thailand and the U.S. regularly conduct joint military exercises and training programs to enhance operational readiness and promote interoperability. Cobra Gold, a significant multinational exercise held in Thailand, plays a crucial role in improving coordination and readiness among armed forces. After three years of cutbacks due to the pandemic, Cobra Gold 2023 returned to its pre-pandemic scale with the commencement at U-Tapao Thai Navy Airfield in Rayong Province. By strengthening their military cooperation, Thailand and the United States aim to enhance regional security, deepen their alliance, and foster stability in Southeast Asia.
On May 14, 2023, Thailand’s progressive Move Forward Party (MEP) won the election on a platform which presented voters with a plan to reform the powers of the military and other unelected state institutions. The significance of the election outcome cannot be overstated. Thailand is a critical ally of the U.S. as it is the only functioning multiparty democracy in mainland Southeast Asia, an area surrounded by the increasing influence of the PRC, and on top of that, China is now the largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) for Thailand. “It should escape nobody’s attention that Thailand just delivered a resounding vote against authoritarian politics in favor of a progressive platform that is more decidedly liberal in a Western sense than anything seen here in at least three decades, if ever."