The Battle for Thailand’s Future

China’s rise is changing Thailand, inside and out. Will the U.S. push back?

GPF Staff |February 15, 2019

Thailand is set to hold elections at the end of March, bringing an end to nearly five years of military rule. The U.S., which slashed military aid to the country following the 2014 coup, paired its diplomatic applause at the return of democracy with an expanded presence at this week’s annual Cobra Gold military exercises in Thailand. This has revived the question about whether the U.S. – now free from its half-hearted push to promote democracy in a country where, historically, unelected pillars of power steadily served U.S. strategic interests – will move decisively to arrest the more recent drift of its oldest ally in Asia toward China.

Yet, last week’s political earthquake in Bangkok demonstrated that Thailand is still mired in a prolonged transformation at home – one that has been intertwined with profound changes in the broader regional landscape since the end of the Cold War. China’s rise has both contributed to and benefitted from this transition. Over the same pe

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