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US Suspends Military Aid to Thailand After Coup

The United States announced Thursday it is suspending nearly $24 million in military-related aid to Thailand because of the September 19 military coup there. Some humanitarian and other assistance to the longtime U.S. regional ally will continue.

The aid suspension was not unexpected given U.S. displeasure with the turn of events in Bangkok, and the action was in large part mandated under terms of legislation forbidding U.S. aid to countries where civilian governments have been ousted by the military.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the affected programs include U.S. credits to Thailand for purchases of military hardware, U.S.-based education for Thai military personnel, and training for Thai forces that would be involved in international peacekeeping operations.

McCormack said strictly humanitarian aid including funds to help Thailand combat HIV-AIDS and avian flu would continue, and that waivers had been invoked to allow some security-related assistance to continue for anti-terrorism and counter-proliferation programs.

The spokesman said the United States continues to urge a rapid return to democratic rule and early elections in Thailand, and looks forward to being able to reinstate the affected aid programs after an elected government take office.

The U.S. action came as the military chiefs who have run Thailand for the last two weeks prepared to name an interim government, including a new prime minister.

Spokesman McCormack declined specific comment on the junta's plans, saying only that the coup had been a real setback for Thailand and that the United States wants to see the country get back onto the path of democracy as quickly as possible.

"You want to see a return to adherence to democratic principles, and that means political parties being able to form and discuss in a free manner what their platforms might be," he said. "You want to have freedom of expression. And you want to have elections as soon as possible. And you also want to have an interim government that is a government committed to the principles of democracy and acting on those principles."

Since the coup, the military has dismissed the parliament and government, revoked the constitution, imposed martial law and placed restrictions on the media and political parties.

The military ousted civilian Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup September 19 amid charges of corruption and abuse of power by the former leader, now in exile in London.

Though urging Thai military leaders to make good, quickly, on promises to restore democratic rule, U.S. officials have not called for a return to power by Mr. Thaksin.