Thailand has sought help from China to build military production facilities, a Thai defence ministry spokesman confirmed on Wednesday, 21 December. The talks between the two nations shows the growing closeness between China and Thailand, the oldest ally of the US in Asia.
According to reports, relations between Thailand and the United States cooled down in May 2014 after a military coup and to compensate it, Bangkok has sought to develop ties with China. The US has said that ties between Washington and Bangkok cannot return to normal until democracy is restored. On that note, the Thai Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan met his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, during a visit to Beijing last week.
"The defense minister told his Chinese counterpart that we are interested in setting up facilities to repair and maintain the Chinese equipment we currently have in our arsenal.
"We will also look to their expertise in producing small arms and other security-related equipment like drones," ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantravanich told Reuters.
Kongcheep added that the junta-ruled country has also held talks with Russia about setting up similar production facilities, without giving any further detail.
The US has also reduced security and defence aid to Bangkok since the coup and scaled back annual military exercises citing concern about Thailand's political development.
The military generals running Thailand have promised an election for 2017. But the victory of Donald Trump in presidential election has raised questions about prospects for a US "pivot" toward Asia, a central policy of retiring President Barack Obama.
"If the U.S. is unable to back up its regional role ... the regional states have no other choice but to accommodate Beijing," Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said.
Kongcheep also said that military relations with the United States were expected to only get warmer after Thailand's election.