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Washington Presses Thailand to Restore Civilian Rule

  • Ron Corben

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, right, and Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Apichart Chinwanno speak during a joint news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 16, 2015.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, right, and Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Apichart Chinwanno speak during a joint news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 16, 2015.

In bilateral talks between Thailand and the United States, largely focused on strengthening cooperation and business ties, a senior U.S. state department official pressed Bangkok toward a return of civilian rule.

The talks under the Thailand – United States Strategic Dialogue Wednesday ranged from trade to regional security, and issues across the broader Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said Washington wanted to see Thailand unified, stable, secure, prosperous and influential.

Russel said he held “genuinely candid and substantive discussions” with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led Thailand's 2014 coup.

“There are a number of areas in which we may not come to agreement. [But] one thing that we do agree on is the importance of the Thai people charting a path to a stable secure future.That path leads to civilian led democratic rule,” he said.

Increased tensions

Tensions rose last month after U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies criticized the length of prison terms imposed under laws protecting the Thai royal family from defamation.

Recent sentences have ranged up to 30 years with a 27-year old man before a military court Wednesday facing up to 37 years for social media posts regarding a favored pet dog of the Thai king.

Russel said Washington’s calls for support of human rights did not specifically target Thailand.

"The human rights that the United States and other advocate for are not Thai specific, they are not America specific, these are universal human rights," he said. "These are freedoms that all people seek and all people deserve.And it is our devout wish that the wishes and rights of the citizens of the Kingdom of Thailand will ultimately be realized in a combination of stable democratic civilian led government."

The military government says once constitutional reforms are in place new elections could go ahead by 2017.

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