Politically, relations with Thailand were on ice after the military coup in 2014. Now a Federal President is visiting for the first time in 22 years. Steinmeier finds words of praise for the new civilian government.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier praised the changes in Thailand under the new civilian government as positive progress towards democracy. “After just a few months of taking over the government, you shouldn’t expect everything to change. But the signals we have seen so far are very encouraging,” said Steinmeier in Bangkok. “This also deserves our trust,” he added in a press conference with Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. He has been in office since August last year.
Srettha announced that Thailand and Germany want to expand their relations into a strategic partnership. The way for this should be paved during his official visit to Germany in March. “Thailand is back,” said the prime minister, referring to his country’s position after the transition to civilian government. He is convinced that Steinmeier’s visit will lead to a “new era” in mutual relations.
“A conciliatory signal”
Srettha’s government is the first since the 2014 coup that is not composed of or dominated by the military. After the coup, Germany – like other countries – severely restricted its contacts with Bangkok.
Steinmeier expressly acknowledged that the day before the country’s Constitutional Court acquitted last year’s actual election winner, Pita Limjaroenrat from the Move Forward Party, of charges of violating the electoral law. “On the one hand, this is a message to the international community. On the other hand, it is also a conciliatory signal internally.” If convicted, Pita would have faced a long prison sentence and a ban on political activity. Steinmeier also wanted to meet with the current leader of the Move Forward Party, Chaithawat Thulaton.
Holidaymakers and companies from Germany
Thailand is a popular holiday destination for Germans. According to Srettha, around 700,000 German tourists came last year, which he also attributed to the extensive visa freedom. He asked Germany for help in lifting the visa requirement for Thai citizens in the Schengen area.
The bilateral trade volume between Germany and Thailand was around 14 billion euros in 2022. Srettha campaigned for more investments from Germany. The economic potential of his country is great. There are currently around 600 German companies present in Thailand. Steinmeier visited a Mercedes factory where the 200,000th Car rolled off the assembly line.
Steinmeier confirmed to Srettha that he had done a lot to improve the investment climate. Investment decisions also depend on a country’s reputation. “And the question of human rights and the role of civil society always flows into the reputation.” This was discussed openly. “Of course, we stick to our view that freedom of the press and opinions must be guaranteed in states that are committed to democracy,” said Steinmeier.
Human rights activists criticize the fact that the Kingdom of Thailand is using the lese majeste law to take action against journalists and opposition figures. Srettha assured that his government attaches great importance to the protection of human rights.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.