Home More News Ambassador Tanee Sangrat defines Thailand’s US-China balancing act

Ambassador Tanee Sangrat defines Thailand’s US-China balancing act

Ambassador Tanee Sangrat defines Thailand’s US-China balancing act
Thai Ambassador Tanee Sangrat speaks June 6 at the Washington Diplomat's Ambassador Insider Series.

Maintaining Thailand’s friendship with the United States and China is a diplomatic balancing act, says the country’s ambassador, Tanee Sangrat, speaking June 6 with the Washington Diplomat in its latest Ambassador Insider Series.  

“We support constructive dialogue and constructive cooperation between the United States and China, because the bilateral relationship between United States and China, in my view is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world,” the ambassador told his audience at the Line Hotel in Washington.

But he stopped short of saying Thailand would ever consider more than simple counsel to the two nations.  

“We don’t dare try to manage the relationship between the United States and China,” he said. “If they see the need, then we stand ready to be very supportive of the dialogue.”

Washington Diplomat reporter Adrienne Ross interviews Thai Ambassador Tanee Sangrat on June 6.

Thailand lists China, Japan and the United States as its top trading and investment partners, and puts a lot of weight on maintaining these relationships.  

Sangrat also discussed Thailand’s May 14 elections, attributing some of the 75% voter turnout to enthusiasm for a handful of policies that popular “Move Forward” party leader Pita Limjaroenrat has proposed.

“Traditionally, any party can form the government, but over the past, maybe a couple of decades, it has become a practice, you know a system, that the largest party gets to form the government first,” he said, adding that he expects a winner to be certified by late August.

This was Ambassador Sangrat’s first time in the hot seat at the Washington Diplomat’s forum.  His humor, honesty and humility created an instant rapport with the audience and his enthusiasm for Thailand was evident, particularly when discussing trade and incubation opportunities in the United States.

“For small countries like Thailand, I think key success factors would lie in our access to some of the technology and innovation. This is an indicator of growth of our economy, the building of our society,” he said, while also putting an immediate call out to the audience for any potentially new partnerships.

Another hot issue is the simmering civil war in neighboring Myanmar. Sangrat confirmed that his country is participating in the “Track 1.5 dialogue” along with other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to end that conflict as soon as possible. Sangrat says his government is trying to better understand how Thailand can improve its humanitarian response for the tens of thousands of displaced people now spilling over the border.   

Crowd at the Ambassador Insider Series event

The ambassador highlighted Thailand’s leadership role in combating the rampant sex trafficking, drug smuggling and organized crime that flourishes throughout the Mekong River region.

“We are all in this together,” he said.  “Thailand, the Thai people, and others from our neighboring countries are fooled into human trafficking and to work for scams. So, we are working closely with our friends in the region, with ASEAN and China, to crack down on these games and to try to bring back and offer assistance to our people. It’s an ongoing challenge in the region.” 

Those in atttendance included Mongolian Ambassador Batbayar Ulziidelger; Kelley Currie, former US ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues; and Marie Royce, former assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Event sponsors included Sahouri Insurance, Viatris, Western Transportation Group, General Solar Company and the Line Hotel.

Separately, in celebration of 190 years of US-Thai relations, the Royal Embassy of Thailand threw the biggest bash the National Mall in recent memory. The inaugural Sawasdee DC Thai Festival, held July 2, featured everything from wanton dumplings and drunken noodles, to Thai IPA and Thai teas.

Ambassador Tanee Sangrat participates in the Sawasdee DC Thai Festival.

The smells and sounds of Thailand wafted across the Mall from more than 20 food stands, while revelers checked out dozens of innovations derived from US-Thai investments including the first import of pomelo fruit and other agricultural products, as well as Thai shrimp raised in Florida.

Among the lineup of live events on the main stage were a cooking demonstration by the ambassador’s chef, and many Thai musical and dance performances from across the United States. Leading Muay Thai champion Buakaw Banchamek wowed the crowd with his ritual ceremony performance, graciously signed autographs, and enthusiastically sparred with guests of all ages, including some junior national fighters who turned up on the lawn with the ambassador.

The Thai Embassy estimates nearly 30,000 people braved the stifling July weather to mark the milestone. Also in attendance were representatives of the US State Department, AFS-USA Intercultural, the US Peace Corps, the cities of New Orleans and Boston, and the states of Florida and Minnesota.

Find more photos of our Ambassador Insider Event here.

Adrienne Ross