Opinion: Do Foreigners Have the Right to Criticize Thailand’s Foreign Policy?

Exterior of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Facebook.
Exterior of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Facebook.

Well, if you are still undecided, here is the answer by foreign ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat nearly two weeks ago after a group of foreign Twitter users criticized Thailand’s foreign policy towards Russia following my column on Thailand’s vote to abstain during the recent U.N. General Assembly from condemning Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories.

“What or who gives you the right to pass judgement on Thailand’s or any country’s foreign policy. Thailand stands on her own side and interests and not with any side in the game between the great powers. We prefer dialogue and diplomacy over more war and losses,” Thanee, a former Thai Ambassador to Hanoi replied, using his Twitter account as the ministry spokesman.

What kind of world will be like where people do not have the right to condemn American, Russian or Chinese imperialism simply because they are not Americans, Russian or Chinese?

Well, the undiplomatic reply on Twitter by Tanee was followed, after about 23 hours, by another tweet. “I take back the first sentence.”


Unbelievable isn’t it!

It is never too late, but it is a little too little and such an attitude gives us an insight into the subconscious minds and sense of self-entitlement of some bureaucrats at the foreign ministry.

Thais tend to be bad at listening to criticism and at the bastion of Thai bureaucratic elites, it is worse because they think they know more and are smarter than us. The crème de la crème of the Thai bureaucracy is accustomed to telling others what to do and what is best for Thailand.

They think since they are smarter or better educated than most of the rest of us, we, Thais, expats, and foreigners, should simply just listen, concur, and applaud them. In case there is any doubt, one should just keep one’s opinion to oneself and not criticize the foreign ministry and its senior diplomats.

Thailand does not only have a problem with the lack of civilian supremacy over the military, which results in an average of one military coup once every seven years since the 1932 revolt, which ended absolute monarchy and supposedly introduced parliamentary democracy.

In reality, the people are not yet holders of the sovereign power of Thailand and many bureaucrats still believe they are the boss of the taxpayers. How ungrateful then they are funded by taxpayers and behaved with such a sense of entitlement.


They are simply not used to listening to others as they are more accustomed to having others listen to them and tell others what to do. That is why in the spur of the moment, Tanee’s off-the-cuff tweets were a rich example.

Please note that although Tanee has taken back the first offensive sentence in his tweet, he had neither apologized nor expressed a sense of contrition. This is emblematic of a continuing dictatorial culture that is pervasive in Thai society, well beyond the confinement of military camps and barracks.

It will be a long way before many of these Thai bureaucrats truly think of themselves as public servants and not masters of the public. People need to hold them accountable and shame them whenever they have the audacity to behave in such an appalling manner and publicly display their dictatorial and autocratic nature.