Tag: Thailand

German foreign ministry defends Thai King’s visa-free stay in Bavaria
Asia Pacific Focus

German foreign ministry defends Thai King’s visa-free stay in Bavaria

Despite objections raised by the German parliament over the visa-free stay of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, for months at stretch during the initial lockdown, the country’s foreign ministry said that he didn’t require a visa. For the past few years, Thailand’s monarch, along with his entourage, has been frequently visiting the country to stay in the southwestern state of Bavaria.

With regard to his frequent trips to the European nation, German government raised two key issues. One surrounding the nature of the Thai King’s visa and other if he was conducting the state affairs for his nation from Germany, which the German law prohibits.

In January, the ministry wrote a letter addressed to Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of the Bundestag, offering clarification over the matter. The foreign ministry stated that the Thai monarch did not need a visa when entering the country, and hence the German authorities could not control his visits or duration of his stay. Though its not clear if the Thai monarch was controlling his state from Germany or not.

In the letter, the ministry added that King Vajiralongkorn needed a visa till he was a crown prince but not after he became the head of state.

Reports claim that Thai King was living in Bavaria until October, and returned back to his kingdom to commemorate the fourth anniversary of his father’s death. His visit back home was met with rising protests against the Thai government, led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was slammed for his pro-royalist tone and allowing the army to maintain its grip on power. Student-led demonstrations demanded Prayuth’s resignation and rejection of the new constitution which extended more power to the monarchy. The protestors called for reforms to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Student protestors even marched towards and carried demonstration outside the German embassy in Bangkok to press the European nation to conduct fair investigation into the king’s activities in Germany. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas then responded that the authorities would “permanently review the goings-on and act immediately if things are found that we perceive to breach the law.”

Contradicting the ministry’s claim, the parliamentary researchers submitted a document stating, “The granting of visa-free entry for the Thai king’s private visits in Germany cannot be justified through utilization and interpretation of the relevant laws… At best, one can assume the existence of a legal loophole.”

Sevim Dagdelen, the member of the Left Party and party’s representative on the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, was the one to push initiate the parliamentary researchers towards the issue, demanding clarification over Thai King’s stay in the country, even during the lockdown months when everything was shut down. “The Federal Government must stop pretending its hands are tied and start to use the immigration law’s leeway to stop the Thai king from continuing his despotic governing from Germany,” Dagdelen told media.

Slamming foreign ministry’s coverup for the Thai’s travels and stays in German, Margarete Bause, the Greens’ spokesperson on human rights, said that the latest Bundestag’s presidential research document was less than a slap in the face for the German government. “The foreign ministry has for months been wiggling around the issue and uses any possible legal grey zone to avoid positioning itself clearly,” said Bause. “Especially in view of the increasingly harsh crackdown against the Thai opposition, it is irresponsible that the German government effectively grants the Thai king permanent special rights,” she added

China’s COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy failing in ASEAN: Report

China’s COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy failing in ASEAN: Report

China’s COVID-19 vaccine: As China tries to boost its image with COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy, ASEAN is looking for alternatives

As countries across the world are working diligently to develop a viable vaccine against COVID-19, China has been making efforts to restore its image through its vaccine diplomacy in response to widespread criticism over its mishandling of the pandemic outbreak. 

However, Beijing has faced a major setback in its strategy after ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members including Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines signed various deals for procurement of the COVID-19 vaccine with pharmaceutical companies from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Notably, China’s delay in providing crucial information related to the genetic components of Coronavirus hampered the efforts of other countries to develop a potential vaccine to tackle the virus. Coronavirus had originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November 2019 and spread across the world within months, affecting the lives of billions of people. 

With access to all information about the virus, China benefitted from a head start in developing a potential vaccine. As soon as it achieved success in developing a vaccine against COVID-19, China offered it to other countries in a bid to bolster its diplomatic engagement, exert geopolitical influence and pursue its broader regional objectives. 

A number of senior Chinese leaders visited Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, assuring them priority access to the vaccine. Countries like Indonesia and Malaysia had also signed deals to work together with Chinese state-owned drug makers to develop the vaccines. At a time when advanced nations such as the US, UK and Australia were busy developing potential vaccines prioritising domestic needs, China stepped up its efforts to provide vaccine development and distribution assistance to ASEAN nations.

However, as per media reports, ASEAN countries have been asked to extend support to Beijing at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in barter for the vaccine in a bid to revive its goodwill. According to an Economic Times report, a reporter from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency had posted on his Weibo account that Premier Li Keqiang had made it a prerequisite for ASEAN countries to support China at the WHO for its support in combating the virus. 

Amid this development, ASEAN countries have grown cautious of Beijing’s strategy to influence the region. On Friday, Thailand and the Philippines reportedly secured millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. At the same time, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also announced that the country has signed a deal with US drug maker Pfizer to procure its COVID-19 vaccine for 20 percent of its population amid efforts to combat the pandemic.

Notably, the vaccine race has now grown into a proxy war for dominance between China, the US and Russia, amid a global dissociation on the critical issue. The provision of a Chinese vaccine will have significant geopolitical implications. Significantly, Beijing has already offered a $1 billion loan to Latin America and the Caribbean for access to its COVID-19 vaccine. 

Meanwhile, over 150 countries have joined the COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility) initiative launched by a collaboration of the WHO, vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It aims to speed up the development, manufacturing and equitable distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 among member countries.

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