Press Availability at Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press Availability
Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Bangkok, Thailand
December 17, 2015

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I want to begin by saying thank you to Foreign Minister Don and to the Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Thailand for a series of very, very substantive and very productive meetings. We provided a readout of yesterday’s Strategic Dialogue, but today, I was able to spend some time with the Foreign Minister delving deeply into the very broad set of bilateral, regional, and global issues in which the U.S. and Thailand cooperate so fully. We discussed in particular the U.S.-ASEAN agenda and ways in which the United States and Thailand can contribute to the region, to the institution, and specifically to some of the less developed neighbors. We talked about global issues, and touched on everything from the world economy to the fight against terrorism and other transnational threats. And, we talked about the U.S.-Thailand relationship. I made clear to the Foreign Minister what i have said to each of my counterparts and which I’ve said publicly as well. That Thailand is a friend and the United States benefits when our friend is unified, our friend is stable and secure, when our friend is growing more prosperous and we are working together to those ends. Now, I’m also pleased to say that the Foreign Minister is willing and able to have a very candid, very practical set of discussions about some of the challenges that together we are grappling with, that includes irregular migration, that includes transnational crime, and trafficking in persons. The fact that we are talking together, communicating, thinking together, planning together is in keeping with the long tradition of cooperation between our two countries. I want to add that in addition to the conversation today with the Foreign Minister, I had the honor of spending some time at the Queen’s textile museum earlier and I described it to the Foreign Minister that I was impressed not only with the tremendous quality of the textiles themselves, but also the extent to which Her Majesty has devoted herself to promoting the arts and the culture of the Kingdom of Thailand, something that is deeply appreciated and deeply admired in my country. The Foreign Minister shared some stories and some experience about the King who of course who has deep roots and a strong connection to the United States including his extraordinary musical career, and as a failed musician myself that means a lot to me. This has been a long and very productive visit to Thailand for me and again I want to express may appreciation to the government, to the Foreign Ministry in particular for the access, the candor and the constructive engagement that they have accorded me. Thank you.

QUESTION (REUTERS): Do you anything to say about freedom of expression in Thailand?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RUSSEL: Our commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly is a universal commitment because these are universal freedoms and universal rights. Now, I appreciate that from the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister on down I was able to get a full and respectful hearing as I explained the US’ thinking and perspective. I don’t know if it was a Reuter’s story today that was flagged for me that characterized my interactions as one of pressure. Forgive me if I am tarring Reuters with someone else’s brush, but fact of mater is that we are able to hold a full, frank, and open dialogue. It is important in our view for citizens to be able to freely express their views consistent with the basic legal norms and internal practice, but as this press conference indicates there is no shortage of opportunities to be heard here in Thailand.