U.S. Urges Unfettered Political Participation in Thailand

By Jane Morse
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The U.S. Department of State is calling for a return to democratic rule in Thailand and "unfettered" participation for media and all political parties.

Briefing reporters September 21, State Department acting spokesman Tom Casey said,  “(T)here must be a swift return to democratic rule. [W]e do want to see a handover to civilian authorities as quickly as possible.”  (See related story.)

Casey called reports that coup leaders have banned political activities in Thailand “a setback.”

Control of Thailand’s government institutions was seized on September 19 by a group calling itself the Committee for Democratic Reform under the Monarchy as Head of State.  This “committee” has declared martial law, pledged to name a civilian caretaker prime minister within two weeks, write a new constitution, and hold elections by October 2007.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was in New York attending the start of the United Nations' 61st General Assembly session at the time of the coup.

Thailand’s aid from the United States is in jeopardy because of the coup, Casey said.   Under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Act for fiscal year 2006, appropriated funds may not be used to assist the government of any country whose duly elected head has been deposed by military coup or decree.

Approximately $14 million in bilateral assistance has been earmarked for Thailand for the current fiscal year. Casey said a review is under way to determine which programs may be affected by the restrictions spelled out in Section 508.

For more information on U.S. policy, see Democracy and East Asia and the Pacific.