US’s decades-old ties to the kingdom are threatened by its condemnation, writes Asia Sentinel’s Patrick Jory
While the recent military coup in Thailand has drawn much of the world’s attention to the military junta’s suppression of democracy and human rights, it also has far-reaching geopolitical implications for the whole of Southeast Asia.
At the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore two weeks ago, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was uncharacteristically blunt when speaking about the situation in Thailand, calling on the junta to release detainees, end the censorship of the media and to “immediately hold general elections.” His comments came a day after coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha had laid out his roadmap for political reform, with elections “within 15 months.”
Earlier, a spokesperson for the US State Department had declared that it would use “every political lever, economic lever where applicable” to pressure the military regime to return Thailand to democratic rule.
Thailand has long enjoyed close relations with the United States. During the Cold War it was one of the staunchest US allies in Southeast Asia. But many Thai royalists now feel that the US has abandoned them.
After Kristie Kenney, the US Ambassador to Thailand, criticized the coup, a social media campaign among Thai royalists began – calling for the ambassador to be recalled to Washington.
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