chapter  9
18 Pages

Thailand’s maritime challenges and priorities WILFRIED A . HERRMANN

Geography The Kingdom of Thailand is located in a strategic position in Southeast Asia. With two long coastlines on the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea with a combined length of about 3,219 km, the kingdom has access to two major oceans: the Pacific via the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean via the Andaman Sea. Thailand’s territorial sea area is about 2,230 sq. km, about 5 percent of its total landmass,1 while the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers about 324,812 sq. km.2 Furthermore, strategic value is added by its position at the northern mouth of the Malacca Straits, one of the most important sea lines of communication (SLOCs) in the world, with more than 50,000 ships passing through annually. However, as the east and west coasts of the country are separated by Malaysia and Singapore, strategic planners have to take into consideration either the military build-up of two separate fleets or, if the country cannot meet/afford this requirement, a close cooperation of political, diplomatic and military means in order to avoid turning this advantage into a disadvantage. Thailand shares land borders with four neighbors: Myanmar (approximately 1,800 km), Laos (approximately 1,750 km), Cambodia (approximately 800 km) and Malaysia (approximately 500 km), many of which are not clearly defined and therefore require border negotiations, which are currently either ongoing or partly completed. Thailand also shares direct sea borders with Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia, while the introduction of the EEZ regime has increased its sea areas more than threefold. Some maritime experts state in this context that

Thailand now becomes an EEZ-locked nation surrounded by two layers of other countries. The inner layer comprises Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, India’s Nicobar Island and Myanmar. The outer layer is made up of China, Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.3