Thailand is the United States’ oldest friend and ally in Asia. U.S. – Thai relations go back to 1833 when the two countries signed The Treaty of Amity and Commerce. This special friendship has spanned over the period of almost 180 years and it is through this special relationship that the mutual cooperation between both nations has flourished.
Thailand was known as Siam until 1939. The Kingdom of Siam presented the – then young — United States with a “Siam” engraved stone as a token of friendship for the internal wall of the Washington Monument. In 1833, President Andrew Jackson sent envoy Edmund Roberts to Bangkok to present the elephant and eagle sword to His Majesty King Nang Klao or King Rama III. Since then, the eagle and elephant has continued to represent U.S.-Thai relations. In 1861, His Majesty King Mongkut wished to send a pair of male and female elephants to the president of the United States to be used as beasts of burden. However, President Lincoln declined His Majesty the King’s generosity due to concerns about the suitability of America’s climate and the Civil War.
Thailand has always been supportive of U.S. aspirations. Thailand stood by the United States during the First World War, Cold War, Korean War and Vietnam War. Thailand and the United States are also among the signatories of the 1954 Manila Pact of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). Although the SEATO was dissolved in 1977, the Manila Pact still remains in force and reflects the security commitments between the two nations. In recent times, Thailand supported U.S. military missions both in Iraq and Afghanistan, contributing its military capabilities to the peacekeeping missions. In 2003, Thailand was designated as a major non-NATO ally for its commitment to international peacekeeping operations in Iraq. Moreover, while Thai and American soldiers had fought side-by-side in various wars in the past, military cooperation was maintained through the Cobra Gold, an annual military exercise between the Thai and U.S. military.
In addition to the security cooperation, the two countries have also stepped up their cooperation in economic arena. Beginning in 2004, the U.S. and Thailand have been working toward establishing U.S. – Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to maximize trading opportunities between the two countries. Through these comprehensive relations in various aspects, Thailand has continued to be one of the United States’ closest friends in the continued pursuit of peace, security and prosperity.
Thai-U.S. relations have been reinforced by the educational exchanges between the two countries. Many Thais have been educated in the United States either through their own private endeavors or exchange programs such as American Field Service (AFS). Numerous programs including AFS help facilitate educational and cultural exchange by sending Thai Students to the U.S. The US Educational Foundation (which began as Fulbright program in Thailand since 1950 and renamed TUSEF in 1979) is funded annually by the Congress through the Department of State and the Government of Thailand through the Department of Technical and Economic cooperation.
One of the prominent aspects of the Thai-U.S. cultural cooperation is the sister- city relations. The U.S. and Thailand have long had sister –city partnerships since 1962. Bangkok and Washington, D.C. established Sister City relations linking the capital city of Thailand and that of the U.S. Likewise, Chonburi is linked with and Carson City in Nevada, Chiang Mai is linked with Los Angeles and San Rafael in California, Phuket is paired with Las Vegas in Nevada, and Udon Thani is matched with Reno in Nevada. Furthermore, there are many Thais and Americans of Thai descent living in the U.S. and can be found in all kinds of professions including art, banking, medical, businesses and etc. The largest concentration of Thais is in Los Angeles.