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22 Jan, 2012

Thailand Recognises Palestine, So What’s Next?

Originally Published: 22 January 2012

Thailand’s recognition of a Palestine state brings the kingdom in line with the growing majority of countries that have gone down that path. At the same time, the timing of the recognition cannot be disassociated from the arrest of the alleged Lebanese terrorism suspect, and the anti-Arab/Muslim hysteria now raging across Thai online chat forums, social media and radio waves.

The recognition is a huge step forward for Palestinian people and a boost for their leaders’ policy to take a diplomatic approach in pursuit of statehood. The Palestinians deserve the same freedom as the people of Burma, North Korea and Timor Leste (formerly Indonesian-occupied East Timor). When Western governments drop their double standards and different-strokes-for-different-folks foreign policy, the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people may yet be realised.

The announcement came as a pleasant surprise. At the 66th UN general assembly session last September, soon after the Yingluck administration came to power, Thailand’s policy speech had not mentioned the Palestinian issue at all. This had raised fears that the new administration would reverse the policy of the previous Democrat-led government.

Former Foreign Minister Kasit Pirom had made it quite clear to Arab ambassadors that Thailand intended to recognise a Palestinian state in order to push for a closure to the long-standing Middle East impasse which he indicated had consumed far too much time, effort and resources in an era when the world had many other pressing problems to deal with.

Over the years, the strongest support in the ASEAN countries, apart from the Islamic-majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia, has come from Vietnam. At the UN general assembly, the Foreign Minister of Vietnam Mr. Pham Binh Min said: “Viet Nam wishes to underline that we recognized the State of Palestine in 1988 and have always supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people for their inalienable rights, including the right to establish an independent and sovereign state that co-exists peacefully with Israel with their borderlines set up before June 1967. In this spirit, we affirm our strong support for Palestine’s efforts to soon become a full United Nations member.”

By joining the real international community, the vast number of developing countries, the Thai government’s move further underscores the increasingly anti-democratic stand of the United States, Europe, Australia and other countries which are regularly out-voted in the UN but continue to ignore the outcomes, largely to appease the Israeli lobbies and political financiers in their own countries. Also looking somewhat isolated now is Singapore whose links to the Israeli establishment is well-known.

A clear window of opportunity is now open for Arab diplomatic missions in Bangkok to step up their activities in support of the Palestinian cause. At the moment most of these activities are confined to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, which is like preaching to the converted.

It will also help lift Thailand’s standing in the Arab world. The long-standing and unresolved Saudi jewellery case has cost Thailand big-time. With the various changes taking place in the Middle East, a new era will emerge with plenty of business opportunities. The Middle East still has one of the largest populations of young people, many of whom will become future buyers of Thai products and services and/or visitors to Thailand.

It is also an exoneration for me, as arguably the only journalist in Thailand to have persistently and consistently pushed the Palestinian cause over the last 10 years.

However, questions have arisen about wider issues that surround such delicate diplomatic decisions.

There is little doubt that the policy impact of such an announcement has been heavily diluted by the ongoing hoopla over the arrest of the Lebanese Swedish national, which came just a week before the Foreign Ministry’s announcement.

Since the arrest, the Thai media has been rife with instant analysis about the Middle East problem, most of it focusing on Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran. Nearly all has reflected the pro-Israeli talking points of Western analysts who invariably paint the Arabs/Muslims as the bad guys and the Israelis/Americans as the good guys who, in the true Hollywood tradition, are just trying to save the world from these evil terrorists.

As public opinion is always a critical component of policy-making, there is no doubt that any attempts that the Foreign Ministry may have wished to make to help the Thai public understand the importance of the Palestinian recognition has been overshadowed by the coverage of the suspected terrorism case.

Clearly, Middle Eastern issues are playing out in Bangkok, whether they involve suspected terrorists or intelligence agencies. Indeed, intelligence agencies are terrorists in different guise; at least four Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in Teheran in the past year, with the killings being blamed on the Israeli secret service, the Mossad. No denials of these allegations have been issued.

Two years ago, a Palestinian leader was assassinated in Dubai, also allegedly by the Mossad. No Western government issued a condemnation or called for investigations. I wonder how the Thai government would have reacted if the Lebanese suspect had been similarly assassinated here, rather than arrested.

Aside from the amazing inconsistencies in what is being reported about the case, note that while some suspect terrorists get arrested, Western leaders accused of state terrorism are allowed to roam the world free.

I am referring, of course, to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair whose support for the attack on Iraq led to the death of hundreds of thousands even though the primary reason he cited for the attack, the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, turned out to be a complete lie. Protest placards denouncing him have spelled his name, “Bliar.”

The fact that Mr Blair never fears having to face due process of international law proves that Western leaders can, and do, literally get away with murder. Unless people like him, former U.S. President George W Bush and Israeli leaders are made to face a tribunal at the Hague, the Palestinian quest for statehood will remain unfulfilled.

It is also worth asking why Thailand is not warned when the worst form of terrorists, paedophiles, breach our borders, many of them from the UK and U.S.

Next, watch out for increased calls for Thailand to buy more security equipment, most of which can be traced back to Israeli and American suppliers. One of the “naked body image scanners” is currently in action at the transit security point at Suvarnabhumi airport, and I suspect that somebody will soon be pressing for their wider deployment in view of the terrorist threat. That contract alone would be worth several hundred million dollars.

Regardless of whether or not Mr. Hussein faces trial, someone will definitely be making a killing.