So we can see there the pictures of Trump Air Force One touching down at Bangkok airport on the latest stage of the President’s whistle-stop foreign tour. And in case any viewers are wondering about the name, remember that Air Force One was a military plane and so along with the rest of the military it has been privatized by presidential order. We are now going over to our correspondent Tony Crane who is on the tarmac. Tony, what can you see there?
Not a great deal, Aaron. As you know, at all presidential events, the media are now kept inside a special fenced area.
A security measure, according to President Trump.
Well, I’m not sure. It makes it easy for him to point us out and incite his supporters against us, and with his novel interpretation of the First Amendment he says we will be shot by the security service if we step outside.
So what can you see from where you are? Are you far from the action?
Yes, about 50 kilometres. We have been corralled in a small corner of the long-time parking lot of Suvarnabhumi Airport while the President is landing at Don Mueang, a completely different airport which doubles as an air force base. So we’re just watching the same pictures on our smartphones as you are looking at.
So what is the mood in Thailand at this historic visit, Tony?
Well, that’s hard to say, Aaron, because there isn’t a soul for miles, except for the rest of the press corps in the cage here.
So what’s the mood among the press corps?
I guess ‘pent up’ would best describe the emotions around me, Aaron.
So we will continue with our coverage from here in the studio. William Kinsley, you are a long-term observer of US-Thai relations, what can we expect from President Trump’s visit to this important ally in Southeast Asia?
Well not a lot, really, since it is scheduled to last about an hour. Just long enough to re-fuel and head for the Malaysian capital.
John Banks, you’re author of one of the few books written by an American about Thailand that doesn’t feature bar girls, do you think the Thais will regard such a short visit as a snub?
Not really, Aaron. Trump only ever stays for an hour or so in foreign countries, outside of the islands he owns in the Caribbean, of course. He says this is because of his self-proclaimed prowess in making deals in a very short time span. Very good deals, he says.
And what deals will he be looking to make with his Thai counterparts?
That’s not at all clear. Maybe he will encourage Thailand not to join the TPP, …
That’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership international trade deal.
That’s right. Trump is totally against that, but the Thais have never been able to make up their minds about this, so maybe there’s not a lot to negotiate.
What about Trump’s policies on Muslims? William Kinsey, can we expect more anti-Muslim rhetoric in the President’s 60 minutes on Thai soil?
Well it would be very undiplomatic, but with this President you never know. Thailand is not a Muslim majority country, of course, but there is a long-running insurgency by Muslims in the south.
Let me just interrupt you there because the President is coming down the steps to be greeted by the Thai Prime Minister and the US Embassy officials, a much smaller contingent than we are used to, of course, because of the mass resignations and lay-offs in the Foreign Service. And he’s just greeting the Thai Prime Minister General Prayut, who is still in power after the military coup 4 years ago. John Banks, will the fact that he is effectively shaking hands with a military dictator be of concern to President Trump?
I doubt it. A twinge of jealousy, maybe.
And here is the President of the United States.
Hellooooo Thailand! I love you all. I love your beautiful country. I saw it from the plane. And I love your beautiful women that I’ve been watching on the internet. And I want to tell my friend the Prime Minister here, General, er …
It looks like an aide is hurriedly whispering in his ear.
… General Prayutin, now who does that remind me of? Anyway, you’re doing a fantastic job. Fantastic. Let me tell the media, because they never do their homework, they never know anything. In this beautiful country, they don’t have protests. You know why? Because if you’re a protestor, you make trouble, wham! The military deals with you. Maybe nobody ever hears from you again. The US could learn a lot from that. And my people tell me that you have a problem with Muslims in some part of Thailand. So let me give you a word of advice. From an expert. Just beat the crap out of them.
It seems that the Thai Prime Minister is trying to say something. Is he saying ‘Crap, crap’?
And don’t let in any of those un-American pervert rapists who have been trying to leave the US since I became President. We’re building a wall to keep them out of Canada, but don’t let any over here, OK? Now my people will talk to your people to sort out all the economic and political things you’re going to do for us. So that’s it for me, but it’s been great talking at you. I love you all. Sayonara, Taiwan, see you again.
And as the President climbs back up the steps, that just about wraps up our coverage of President Donald Trump’s visit to … did he say Taiwan?
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).