News / Asia

US: Thai Military Rule Likely to Last Longer Than Expected

FILE - U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 4, 2013.
FILE - U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel gestures during a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 4, 2013.
Reuters

Mlitary rule in Thailand is likely to last longer than expected and has been more repressive than after the country's last coup in 2006, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.

The official told a congressional hearing Washington was still looking at whether the big regional Cobra Gold military exercise held annually in Thailand could go ahead there next year given the military takeover in May.

“Initially, we held out hope that - as happened with the 2006 coup - the military would move relatively quickly to transfer power to a civilian government and move towards free and fair elections,” said Scot Marciel, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia.

“However, recent events have shown that the current military coup is both more repressive and likely to last longer than the last one.”

Marciel said in testimony to the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the coup had put the United States in a difficult position, given that Thailand is a key U.S. ally in Asia.

“The challenge facing the United States is to make clear our support for a rapid return to democracy and fundamental freedoms, while also working to ensure we are able to maintain and strengthen this important friendship and our security alliance over the long term,” he said.

Marciel said Washington hoped that strong international criticism of the military takeover would lead to an easing of repression and an early return to democracy. He said the United States would continue to call for martial law to be lifted and elections to be held sooner than a vague 15-month timeline laid out by the military government.

However, he added: “To be honest, it's very hard to predict how long they are going to stay in power.”

Until there is a return to elected government, “we will not be able to do business as usual,” Marciel said.

Shifting military exercices

Thai Air Force Air Chief Marshall Prajin Juntong played down the significance of any possible move to shift elsewhere the U.S. and Thai-led Cobra Gold exercises, held annually in Chon Buri, a province east of Bangkok.

“The Royal Thai Air Force trains with other international friends, including Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. This should be no problem at all,” Prajin told reporters in Bangkok.

Prajin said he was confident that relations with Washington would return to normal quickly as they did after the 2006 coup,  when the United States cut aid to its military ally.

“At that time, the U.S. pressured us too, but after we created understanding the situation returned to normal and we believe it will be like that again this time.”

As required by U.S. law, Washington has frozen $4.7 million of security-related assistance since the coup and canceled high-level engagements, some military exercises and training programs for the military and police.

Marciel said Washington had yet to make a decision on Cobra Gold, planned for early next year, which he called “hugely important... not only for Thailand and the United States, but for the region.”

“It's something we're looking at. We have a little bit of time to work with.”

Steve Chabot, chairman of the subcommittee at which Marciel spoke, suggested that Cobra Gold could be moved to another country, such as Australia, and added: “It could clearly send the wrong message if we allowed [Thailand] to participate.”

Washington has also yet to decide whether Thailand would receive a presidential waiver on sanctions - including withdrawal of U.S. support at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank - that could be imposed what it sees as Bangkok's failure to deal with human trafficking, Marciel said.

The U.S. State Department last week downgraded Thailand to its lowest rank in a survey of countries' efforts to eliminate trafficking, placing it alongside states such as North Korea, Syria and Uzbekistan.  

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid