The handful gathered at the famous sign at Patong Beach featuring the world “PHUKET” in various bright colours, while holding up signs to protest the war raging on in the heart of Ukraine.
While Phuket over the years has hosted hundreds of thousands of Russians and Ukrainians alike, not once has The Phuket News received a report of any physical altercation brought on by political differences. Strong arguments certainly, especially after 2014, but no violence. In Phuket, by happenstance or by choice, they stand united in peace.
Meanwhile, the lack of any recognition of the invasion directly by the Prime Minister is an embarrassment to the nation, and sets Prayut aside from all major world leaders in calling for an immediate cease to the hostilities and for Russian troops to withdraw. The same leaders he hopes to sit at the same table with.
Dr Suriya Chindawongse, the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations, on Wednesday (New York time) expressed to the United Nations support for a diplomatic solution regarding the Russia-Ukraine crisis, at that time calling it an “escalation of tension”.
So far, as far as the Royal Thai Government is concerned, that’s it – despite reports by state news agencies themselves calling the attack by Russian troops an “invasion”.
The same state news agencies have delivered more reports about the efforts to safely recover Thai nationals still in Ukraine at the time of the invasion – all 139 of them, according to official reports; other reports place the number at about 230.
Even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to make clear its understanding of who is the aggressor in the dire situation unfolding in Ukraine. In its statement posted on Thursday (Feb 24), the day of the invasion, all it had to say was: “Thailand has been following developments in Ukraine. especially the escalation of tensions in Europe with great concern… We support ongoing efforts. to seek to resolve the situation peacefully through consultation.”
There have been no other statements since. The leading officials under the Royal Thai Government of PM Prayut may be hoping that they are being perceived as not taking a side, but instead they publicly appear as if they are blankly toeing the line laid down by Russian envoys.
The statement by Evgeny Tomikhin, Russian Ambassador to Thailand, issued yesterday set out exactly where the Russian Government wants the focus to be: on the Russian Army liberating the Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. His statement ignored the fact that Russian troops had advanced far beyond the stated intent of the incursion and were now openly attacking Kiev.
To Mr Tomikhin, that strategy may work in countries where news agencies are ordered to report only state news sources or else face prosecution while the government actively restricts posts on social media platforms, but it does not work in countries with greater freedoms, such as Thailand.
While Mr Tomikhin plies a strategy that worked in the last century and attempts to justify war by focussing on the past, the Russians and Ukrainians at Patong have it right. Any reason for aggression can always be justified by the past. In the modern world, war is the enemy. We stand with them.