The U.S.-Thai alliance benefits both our nations and supports peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. The first documented contact between the United States and Thailand was recorded in 1818. The first agreement signed with Thailand was the 1833 Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Since World War II, the United States and Thailand have significantly expanded diplomatic, security, and commercial relations and people-to-people ties. As of 2021, the United States commemorates nearly 190 years of friendly and formalized diplomatic relations with Thailand.
The United States and Thailand remain parties to the 1954 Manila Pact of the former Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which, together with the Thanat-Rusk communiqué of 1962 and the 2020 Joint Vision Statement for the Thai-U.S. Defense Alliance, constitutes the foundation of the U.S.-Thai defense alliance. In 2003, the United States designated Thailand a major non-NATO Ally.
U.S. Assistance to Thailand
Our partnership with Thailand is bilateral and regional in scope. U.S. support is geared toward promoting regional security and prosperity; infectious disease prevention, treatment, and research; combatting emerging pandemic threats; humanitarian assistance for displaced persons; combatting transnational crime, including conservation crimes; support for civil society; and the promotion of democracy and human rights.
The United States supports Thailand’s leadership in the Mekong region through the Mekong-U.S. Partnership (MUSP) as a development partner of the Mekong River Commission and as a development partner of the Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), a partnership between the five Mekong–region countries to coordinate infrastructure development. Through the MUSP, the U.S. collaborates with Thailand and other Lower Mekong countries to strengthen transboundary economic connections and address emerging challenges, such as resource management, transnational crime, transparency and good governance, and human resource development.
The nine U.S. law enforcement agencies operating in Thailand with their Thai counterparts reflects the importance we place on Thailand as a partner and regional law enforcement leader. The United States and Thailand jointly operate the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, which since 1998 has provided training to more than 22,000 criminal justice sector officials from across Southeast Asia on topics such as counter-narcotics, countering trafficking in persons, cybercrime, and wildlife trafficking.
Thailand and the United States co-host Cobra Gold, the Indo-Pacific region’s largest annual multinational military exercise. Since 1950, Thailand has received U.S. military equipment, essential supplies, training, and other assistance in the construction and improvement of facilities. We have $2.85 billion in ongoing Foreign Military Sales and an annual slate of more than 400 joint military exercises and engagements.
U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers, active in Thailand since 1962, focus on English teacher training in primary schools and youth life skills development. For more than 60 years, U.S. agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), have partnered with Thai counterparts to safeguard the health of American, Thai, and international communities through medical research and innovation. Since 2017, USAID’s HIV/AIDS programs have benefitted more than 65,000 Thais, while U.S. assistance over the past 20 years has contributed to a decline in malaria deaths in the country of over 90 percent.
To control the spread of COVID-19 in Thailand, the United States has committed nearly $8.5 million to provide supplies for laboratories and frontline health care workers, increase communications to communities, and support response capacity as well as food security in all nine camps on the Thailand-Burma border hosting refugees from Burma. USAID environment programs conserve biodiversity, expand the use of data to inform policy decisions, including air quality, counter wildlife trafficking, and promote access to safe, affordable, reliable, and modern sources of energy.
The U.S. government funds several exchange programs which connect Thai youth, students, educators, artists, athletes, and rising leaders to their counterparts in the United States and the ASEAN region, engaging them on strategic priorities ranging from civic engagement to economic sustainability. Thailand’s alumni community from U.S. government exchange programs is robust, as more than 6,000 Thais have visited the United States under the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), and other programs. YSEALI’s local network in Thailand has grown to over 16,000 members since its inception in 2013.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The IMF estimates Thailand’s GDP at $538.7 billion (April 2021), making it the largest economy in Mainland Southeast Asia, second largest in ASEAN, and larger than some members of the G20. Thailand is currently the United States’ 19th-largest goods trading partner, with $48.8 billion in two-way goods trade during 2020. The United States contributed $17.7 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) to Thailand in 2019, making it the third-largest foreign investor after Japan ($70 billion) and Singapore ($30 billion).
The U.S.-Thailand Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed in 2002 and provides the strategic framework and principles for dialogue and cooperation on trade and investment issues between the United States and Thailand. In the most recent U.S.-Thailand TIFA meeting, the two sides reaffirmed the importance of working together to strengthen the bilateral trade relationship and discussed a full range of issues, including those related to General System of Preferences reviews, agriculture, customs, intellectual property protection and enforcement, and labor.
Thailand’s Membership in International Organizations
Since becoming a member of the United Nations in 1946, Thailand has played many active roles in UN-related activities, most notably in peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations. Thailand is also a founding member of ASEAN and served as ASEAN Chair most recently in 2019.
Thailand and the United States participate in a number of the same international organizations, including the UN, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Thailand will also host APEC in 2022.
Israel–Thailand relations refers to diplomatic and cultural ties between the State of Israel and the Kingdom of Thailand. The countries have had official relations since June 1954. The Israeli embassy in Bangkok was established in 1958. Since 1996, Thailand has had an embassy in Tel Aviv. Thailand and Israel share a close and friendly relationship, and cooperate on many fields. People-to-people relations between the two countries are also good, as thousands of Thais are employed in Israel, and millions of Israelis have visited and continue to visit Thailand.
On 28 December 1972, a four-member commando of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September invaded the Israeli embassy in Bangkok and held the ambassador and several of his guests as hostages. Two Thai government members, Dawee Chullasapya and Chatichai Choonhavan, who was then deputy foreign minister and became prime minister in 1988, along with the Egyptian ambassador to Thailand, Mustapha el Assawy, negotiated the release of the hostages and instead offered themselves and a number of other Thai officials as surety for the terrorists’ safe conduct to Cairo. Then-Israeli prime minister Golda Meir praised the Thai government for their diplomacy which made for a bloodless end of the crisis.
In January 2004, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn inaugurated a joint Israeli-Thai agro-technology experimental farm for irrigation of high value crops at Khon Kaen University. There is a Thai-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Thai-Israel Friendship Foundation, as well as a small community of Israelis living in Thailand.
After the Thai floods of 2011, Israel sent water management experts to Thailand. Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol is involved in advancing scientific cooperation between the two countries.
In 2012 the two countries signed a trade agreement.
Thailand recognized Palestine in 2012. During 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict the Thai government supported a peaceful solution to the conflict and called on both sides to show restraint. It further stated that it will continue to support both Israel and Palestine, but will not condone terrorist activity by either side.
Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations for Israelis, and Israel became popular for Thai migrant workers. More than 20 thousand Thais are employed in Israel in agriculture and in Asian restaurants as cooks. They work legally under the aegis of the Thai–Israeli bilateral agreement, the Thai-Israel Cooperation on the Placement of Workers (TIC).
In September 2014, the two countries signed a cooperation agreement.
In July 2015, Israel and Thailand signed a medical cooperation agreement.
A delegation from the Thailand industrial association visited Israel in 2015.
The Thai public is generally apathetic to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the Muslim minority in the country, nearly four million, is generally sympathetic to Palestine.
In June and July 2018, Israeli commandos and technology supported Thai Navy SEALs during the highly publicisized Tham Luang cave rescue mission. The operation was a complete success, rescuing the entire soccer team.