US President Trump meets Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha

US President Trump meets Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha

03/10/17

Melanie Ullrich, Business and Policy Programme Manager

US President Donald Trump will meet Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today. Prayut will be the fifth ASEAN leader to meet Trump, after Vietnam’s Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Malaysia’s Najib Abdul Razak, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, and Singapore’s Lee Hsing Loong.

The Obama administration sought to distance itself from the Thai military which took over following a coup in 2014 by slashing aid and scaling back US troops participating in the annual Cobra Gold exercise, one of the largest multinational military drills in Asia Pacific, which is held in Thailand. Obama invited Prayut to an ASEAN summit in the US in 2016 but did not extend a one-on-one invite to the White House.

In his remarks before the bilateral meeting, President Trump said “So we have a very strong relationship right now, as of this moment, and it’s getting stronger in the last nine months.  We’ve done a lot of things together, and it is a tremendous – it’s really very good to have you with us.” On trade issues, Trump said: “[…] our relationship on trade is becoming more and more important. And it’s a great country to trade with; they make product and different things that are really very important to us, and we likewise sell to you. I think we’re going to try and sell a little bit more to you now, make that a little bit better if that’s possible.”

Prime Minister Prayut said: “Coming to meet Mr President today is a good opportunity for me and for the Thai government and the people of Thailand to work closely to further strengthen the cooperation between our two countries.”

The visit of the Thai Ambassador comes days after the former elected leader, whose government he ousted, was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.