The United States should stop imposing a one-size-fits-all democracy on the rest of the world, Thailand’s junta chief Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last week, according to local media reports.
In his remarks as keynote speaker at the 47th Wharton Global Forum at a Bangkok Hotel, Prayut used the opportunity to lecture Washington about the inflexibility of its democracy promotion efforts across the world and in Thailand in particular.
“Please tell the United States that in tailoring you cannot just cut one dress and expect it to fit all. There must be many sizes for each to fit. That’s why a tailor is needed. You cannot tailor one dress and expect the whole world to wear it. Each nation has its own problems that differ,” Prayut said according to the Thai newspaper The Nation.
Prayut also staunchly defended his government, which took power following a coup last May and has faced fierce criticism, particularly from the United States.
“I am still being criticized today, accused of making Thailand a bad example for governance in the world. I don’t get it. Every country is watching us to see how Thailand will proceed and they are surprised that Thai people have no problem,” he said.
“And they think some groups of Thais do not want the country to be democratic. So they are puzzled. We told them Thailand is unlike others.”
As The Diplomat reported previously, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel angered Prayut when he criticized the ruling junta in a public speech in January at Chulalongkorn University. U.S. charge d’affaires W. Patrick Murphy was ‘invited’ to explain the comments, and Prayut responded colorfully by calling himself a “soldier with a democratic heart.”
But the junta has also been trying to boost relations with the United States of late. Last month, Thailand appointed a new ambassador to the United States, Pisan Manawapat, and charged him with quickly mending strained ties with Washington.
In his speech, Prayut said that even though he was unlikely to be invited to Washington anytime soon, he was open to let any U.S. official visit Thailand. “Even if the U.S. won’t let me visit, I am open for them to visit [Thailand] because we have longstanding relations lasting two centuries,” he said.
Thailand is the United States’ oldest ally in Asia.