Thailand's permanent representative to the U.N Suriya Chindawongse during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on April 7, 2022. Photo: Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN / Twitter
Thailand's permanent representative to the U.N Suriya Chindawongse during a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on April 7, 2022. Photo: Permanent Mission of Thailand to the UN / Twitter

Condemn the Prayut Chan-o-cha’s regime and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai all you like for Thailand’s vote to abstain from supporting or opposing the resolution to suspend Russia’s membership to the U.N. Human Rights Council and from expressing grave concerns at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.

It is understandable for some Thais to feel outraged or ashamed of its own government’s lack of moral compass. Thailand on Thursday joined 57 other nations which abstained, including Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore. Well, it is still not as shameful as 23 nations who joined Russia in voting against the resolution, however. Still, we deserve to understand why.

The official explanation gave seven reasons to justify Thailand’s decision to vote to abstain. Here I will reproduce the key points and later offer my own take as to what might be the real reasons why Thailand chose to be a fence sitter on the vote.


First, Suriya Chindawongse, Thailand’s permanent representative to the U.N., explained that Thailand voted to abstain “because of the overriding importance that we attach to a transparent, impartial, and inclusive approach in the multilateral regime. A decision to suspend the membership of a Member State in any United Nations’ body cannot be taken lightly. The process must be done through careful consultations, based on principles, verified facts, and taking into account careful consultations, based on principles, verified facts, and taking into account constructive opinions as well as foreseeable consequences.”

The Thai representative also expressed Thailand’s “deepest condolences to the people of Ukraine and the bereaved families who lost their loved ones from the ongoing war in Ukraine” and said Thailand is “deeply concerned with the escalation of conflicts and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine” and called for ensure “unhindered provision of humanitarian assistance.”

It added that, “Another life lost is another life too many.”

What is more, Thailand also insisted that, “To objectively consider the situations, it would require well-rounded established facts and additional concrete evidence proven by reliable sources, including those presented to international courts.”

Suriya added that it supports an independent international commission of inquiry established by the Human Rights Council to commence its work “soonest to investigate.”

Thailand also urges all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and international human rights and promise to continue to provide humanitarian assistance. Finally, “Thailand reiterates our calls for continuation of political dialogues between the concerned parties to find peaceful and sustainable solutions.”

Well, if you are fully convinced and satisfied by what Suriya called “explanation of vote after the vote” then please clap your hands, congratulate the Thai government, be proud and there is no need to read the rest of this commentary.

If you are still in doubt, perplexed, or feel outraged or ashamed of Thailand’s vote to abstain, then read on. I will try to provide you with my own unofficial plausible explanation. If I was to sicnerely write a sober one on behalf of the Thai government, on why Thailand voted to abstain on Thursday in New York City, it will probably read like this.

The Personal and Unofficial Explanation of Thailand’s Vote After the Vote by Pravit Rojanaphruk, permanent critic of the Thai state:

First, we decided to vote to abstain from kicking Russia out of the U.N. Human Rights Council because Russia is simply just too powerful. Thailand does not want to be unnecessarily antagonistic or adversarial towards Russia.

A vote to support the resolution may put Thailand on Russia’s list of “unfriendly countries.” We try to eat the cake and keep it as well as by expressing “our deepest condolences” to Ukraine, sending them a token of humanitarian aid, including a donation worth two million baht (that is about a petty 60,000 US dollars folks!), to ensure that the Ukrainian Embassy Charge d’Affaires Oleksandr Lysak will continue to thank us while Russian ambassador Evgeny Tomikin will thank us as well, and Russian tourists will continue to flock back to Phuket, Pattaya, and Bangkok after the “conflicts” is over, whoever wins. Ukraine should be thankful that at least we did not join North Korea, China, Vietnam or Eritrea in voting against it.

Money talks, and rubles talk too. Russians constitute the top foreign tourist to Thailand from the West. According to the statistics from the Disease Control Department, the month of February saw 17,599 Russians visiting Thailand, which makes them the largest group compared to all other nations as the Chinese continued to be barred from unnecessary travel abroad due to her COVID-19 measures.

This was followed by 13,964 from Germany and 11,278 from France. No money no honey, Ukraine, that is the cruel fact of life.

Please note, however, that we also made a call for an “independent investigation to ensure accountability.” This will buy time for Thailand, and we hope by then the invasion of Ukraine will be over. Brilliant, don’t you think?

By voting to abstain, we are not just buying time, appearing neutral, but also playing it hard to get to the U.S. and the EU. They will have to try harder to court us. We can also make conservative Thais believe that we are a proud and independent nation that can say no to the U.S. and the EU although this has nothing to do with such ideology at all.

Please do not expect sincerity and honesty in diplomacy. We ‘don’ a mask, excuse the pun, to engage in diplomacy. This is first and foremost about protecting Thailand’s interests, or well, at least the interests of those in power. Please do not be distracted by the rants of the hoi polloi in Thailand who are condemning us on social media, they are irrelevant.

Most Thais are parochial anyway and those making noise on social media or in front of the Russian Embassy in Bangkok are just a tiny minority who are being manipulated by the U.S. and the West and do not know what is best for Thailand. Do not worry about how history will judge us for by then we would be long gone, LOL.

Why should Thailand be used and manipulated by the West? We are no lackeys of the West, or China or Russia for that matter. This is not Thailand’s war or conflict, period. Give us a break. Don’t you think the U.S. and the West are sincere and not hypocritical? Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and learn.

Do not ask about moral compass or obligation from Prime Minister Prayut who was once a coup leader or from Foreign Minister Don. Don had no problem working for junta leader Prayut since Aug 2015, a year after the 2014 coup. Forget about honor and decency. You should know by now after all these years whom you are dealing with and what to expect from us.


If after reading this unofficial explanation you still feel upset because of our candid explanation, please try to smile. At least learn to smile a Siamese smile, which means many things and not necessarily a happy or sincere smile. This is Siamese diplomacy with a Siamese smile, at its finest.

In proud history, we switched sides during WWII after Japan was sure to lose. We can do it again if need be. Sincerity is always in acute shortage in the diplomatic profession. It is about the mask and how convincing we don it in public. If anything, Thailand is pragmatic, neutral between good and evil, right and wrong.

Well, we have declared it earlier: we are neutral, neutral not just between Russia and Ukraine, but neutral to all values that are good and honorable.