News / Asia

US Urges Return to Democracy in Thailand

  • Soldiers take up position at the Democracy monument after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters waiting at the Royal Plaza for transportation home stand behind a soldier after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters get ready to leave their main encampment after the coup was declared in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Thai journalists and foreign press watch the TV broadcast announcement of the coup by the Thai Armed Forces chiefs, at the press center of the Army Club, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters raise their fists as they sing the national anthem, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Thai soldiers block a motorcade of an attendant at the Army Club shortly after the army staged a coup, May 22, 2014, in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • An armed soldier takes a position behind a military vehicle in the compound of the Army Club shortly after the military staged a coup, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Thai soldiers guard an area where anti-government protesters come to rally, in Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
  • Barefoot Buddhist monks walk past a checkpoint near a pro-government "red shirt" supporter encampment in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 22, 2014.
Thai Army Stages a Coup
The United States is calling for the release of all of Thailand’s senior political leaders who are currently in military detention following Thursday’s coup.
The U.S. State Department is urging Thailand’s military to restore the ousted civilian government, return the country to democracy and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a blunt statement, said “there is no justification for this military coup.”
U.S. ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney told VOA the military takeover will have ramifications for the diplomatic relationship between the two countries, which goes back to 1883.
“A coup in Thailand will have a negative implication. There will be a high-level review in Washington by the United States government of our assistance and our engagement with Thailand, especially the Thai military,” said Kenney.
US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.
US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.
US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney speaks with VOA's Steve Herman in Bangkok, May 23, 2014.

Thailand is America’s key ally in Southeast Asia. The two countries hold the region’s largest annual military drills, called “Cobra Gold,” but also have significant cooperation in areas from public health to wildlife protection.
The U.S. ambassador said Thursday’s coup, which also suspended the constitution and imposed a nightly curfew, was “a bit of a surprise to all of us” despite the many months of political difficulties leading up to it and the imposition of martial law by the army chief early Tuesday.
“There were signs that things were not normal. But quite frankly right before the announcement came out all of the respective parties were meeting together and so, I think, many of us thought a great opportunity for the kind of genuine dialogue we’d all been looking for,” said Kenney.
Following the coup Thursday, reports circulated online speculating that the acting prime minister and other members of the ousted cabinet had taken refuge in the U.S. embassy. Ambassador Kenney knocked down the reports and said they point to the dangers of the junta’s restrictions on speech and the media.
“You and I are having a conversation here that people in Thailand don’t have the ability to have. So it leads to lots of rumors because there isn’t the usual source of television, radio, discussion of issues. And I think that’s very dangerous in a society,” said Kenney.
The State Department’s sternly worded statement Thursday that called Thailand’s military takeover a “coup” contrasts with the U.S. government’s reaction to the situation in Egypt last year. When that country’s military displaced the elected civilian government, U.S. officials did not characterize the action as a coup.
Analysts say the differing reactions can be explained in part by how the terminology can impact foreign aid.
Under the Foreign Assistance Act, the United States is to suspend assistance to countries that experience a military coup.
Egypt receives about $1.5 billion in foreign aid from Washington.
Following the last coup in Thailand, in 2006, the United States did suspend aid for military training and peacekeeping, but it totaled only $24 million.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: Pirun from: Bangkok
May 23, 2014 6:01 AM
US Please stay away from our country. We have seen what you did in Iraq, Pakistan and your meddling with China. You try to picture yourself as the upholder of democracy, but your image and reality aren't the same thing. Your Ambassador Kristie Kenney had turned into an unwelcome guest now.

You should learn that democracy work in different pattern and grow differently in every country, we have noticed that USA are so supportive of the corrupted Thaksin/Yingluck government. May be you should first try to understand why we want them out in the first place, in the mean time, keep your paws to yourself and pick a fight with someone your own size.
In Response

by: MOD from: CHINA
May 23, 2014 11:57 AM
→ . → the us guys should see this.............U should know who U R in any other point of view .

by: kenneth koejwang mbah from: ghana
May 23, 2014 5:48 AM
whether separatist or the Kiev government, please have respect for human life! the same blood that runs through your veins also runs through the veins of those you are killing every day. why not stop killing and bury the hatchet? settle your problems in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. Russia! peace in Ukraine depends on you, so do your best to calm down the so called separatist. the rest of the world knows and you know you can do it even better.

by: Joseph Christie from: St. Louis, MO
May 23, 2014 4:50 AM
MY taxes and SS contributions are being criminally wasted in such nations, starting from Pakistan and Egypt, and now ending with Thailand, none of which are truly democratic.

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