Thailand defends abstaining from UN vote to condemn Russia’s Ukraine annexation

Subel Rai Bhandari and Nontarat Phaicharoen
Thailand defends abstaining from UN vote to condemn Russia’s Ukraine annexation Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Nations, Sergiy Kyslytsya, scans the General Assembly with binoculars prior to a vote on the resolution condemning the annexation of parts of Ukraine by Russia, at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Oct. 12, 2022.
[David ‘Dee’ Delgado/Reuters]

Thailand on Thursday defended abstaining from the United Nations General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly condemned Russia’s attempts to annex four regions of Ukraine a day earlier, saying the move was “counterproductive” and would obstruct constructive dialogue.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents to make the four eastern Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson parts of Russia. The annexation came after those areas held referendums, which the West denounced as a “sham” and “illegal.”

“Condemnation provokes intransigence and therefore greatly reduces the chance for constructive engagement,” Suriya Jindawong, Thailand’s ambassador and permanent representative to the U.N., said in a statement released by the Thai foreign ministry on Thursday.

Thailand is “genuinely concerned about the increased politicization of international principles that have become counterproductive as the means and guidance to end the war.”

Such a move “marginalizes the chance for crisis diplomacy to bring about a peaceful and practical negotiated resolution to the conflict that may push the world toward the brink of nuclear war and global economic collapse,” Suriya said.

In Vietnam, state media on Thursday reported on the U.N .Resolution condemning Russia, but did not mention Hanoi’s abstention. Dang Hoang Giang, head of Vietnam’s Permanent Delegation at the U.N., seemingly spoke in support of the resolution despite the abstention, the state-run Vietnam News Agency reported.

Dang said the vote emphasized the necessity of assuring the U.N. Charter and international laws be upheld, comprising the principles of non-interference into internal issues of a nation, non-use of force or the threat of force in international relations, settling disputes on international law, with an emphasis on respecting independence, national sovereignty and integrity of all nations.

Previously, Thailand voted to support the March 2 U.N. resolution condemning Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and demanding troop withdrawal. In April, Thailand and a majority of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations abstained from voting to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

This latest resolution, which called on all countries not to recognize Moscow’s annexation and demanded its immediate reversal, was supported by 143 nations, the highest number since the start of the invasion in February.

Thailand and Vietnam, along with Laos, were among 35 countries abstaining, while five countries led by Russia voted against the resolution.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the vote “a powerful reminder that the overwhelming majority of nations stand with Ukraine … and in resolute opposition to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and its people.

“The vote delivers a resounding rebuke to Russia for its aggression against Ukraine,” Blinken said in a statement.

Cars burn after Russia launches a missile attack in Kyiv, Oct. 10, 2022. [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

‘Price to pay’

Thailand’s relationship with China could have played a role in its abstention, a Thai academic said Thursday.

“The abstention on the Russo-Ukraine conflict means Thailand does not differentiate between wrong and right,” Naing Lin, a political science lecturer at Chiang Mai University, told BenarNews.

Thailand, like some other ASEAN countries, “has strong concerns regarding its relationship with a superpower, like China, which supports Russia,” he said. “Whichever way Thailand voted, there is a price to pay.”

A retired Thai diplomat said Thailand should have voted for the right side.

“Russia is clearly wrong in this case. …We are a diplomatic country and should have been with the majority of the countries,” Russ Jalichandra, a former Thai ambassador to Mozambique and Kazakhstan, told BenarNews.

“We don’t have a lot of interest in Russia, unlike India. So it was not hard to make the right decision.”

Although it abstained, Thailand said it “mourns the physical, social and humanitarian destruction of Ukraine and the severe hardships suffered by the Ukrainian people.”

Thailand also reiterated its commitment to the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of a state and the policy of opposing any threats “the use of force to annex the territory of another state without provocation,” according to Suriya’s statement.

Reactions in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City-based Hoang Hung, a critic of the Vietnamese government, told RFA’s Vietnamese service that Hanoi’s attitude has disappointed many people, adding Vietnam does not want to counter Russia because of defense and oil exploration ties in the South China Sea. Radio Free Asia is an online news affiliate of BenarNews.

“It has been Vietnam’s line, since the beginning of the war, not to vote against Russia,” Hung said.

“However, [we] should pay attention to the Vietnam representative’s statements at the U.N. General Assembly that always affirm the call for respect for the U.N. Charter, respect for national sovereignty, and respect for the Principle of Non-Use of Force. One understands such calls means Russia [should not] invade Ukraine, but the abstaining vote contradicts their statements. Everyone sees that,” Hung said.

A democracy advocate, meanwhile, said Vietnam should have voted for the resolution.

“In my opinion, if Ho Chi Minh were still alive, he would be ashamed of Vietnam for abstaining from the vote,” Will Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American democracy advocate, told RFA.

“In fact, if there is nothing more precious than independence and freedom, Vietnam should have voted to support Ukraine. Relating to the complicated situation in the South China Sea, the leaders of Vietnam now are betraying the legacies of Ho Chi Minh,” he said.

APEC summit

Thailand’s abstention comes as the country prepares to host the APEC leaders’ summit in Bangkok on Nov. 18 and 19.

“Russia, among other countries, has accepted an invitation and preparation by security agencies is taking place,” a Thai government source told BenarNews on the condition of anonymity, because he was not allowed to speak to the media.

The Russian Embassy in Bangkok did not respond to BenarNews request for comment on the summit.

On Tuesday, Tanee Sangrat, Thai foreign ministry spokesman, said that nine “economies” have responded positively to the invitation to attend and “eight others are likely to attend.”

He declined to name them.

China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to attend, but U.S. President Joe Biden may not participate because of a “family engagement,” Thai media reported.

“This meeting taking place now is a valuable addition because the top leaders will be able to hold bilateral and sideline meetings to discuss the current complications in the world,” Panitan Wattanayagorn, chairman of the Prime Minister’s Security Advisory Committee, told BenarNews on Wednesday.

“Those meetings could pave the way to solve the current conflict and other tense situations.”

Kunnawut Boonreak in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and RFA Vietnamese contributed to this report.


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