U.S. Concerned About Thai Constitution, Elections Timetable

By Peggy B. Hu
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The United States notes the appointment of an interim prime minister and the release of a draft constitution following the September 19 coup in Thailand but remains concerned by restrictions on civil liberties and the proposed timetable for elections, the White House says.

"We remain concerned by restrictions on civil liberties, provisions in the draft constitution that appear to give the military an ongoing and influential role in decisionmaking, and the lengthy timetable for democratic elections," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said October 3.

The Thai military, which ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his government, has imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, both in terms of political gatherings and media.  The military also has said that elections - originally scheduled for November 2006 - would be delayed until October 2007.  (See related article.)

"We call for clear and unambiguous protection for civil liberties by the interim authorities and the military, and a quick return to democratic elections," Perino said.  "Thailand's image in the eyes of the world and U.S.-Thai relations will suffer until Thailand returns to its place as a democratic leader in Asia."

The military coup already has had a negative effect on U.S. aid to Thailand.

On September 28, the United States suspended nearly $24 million worth of assistance to the Thai government for programs such as military financing, military training and peacekeeping operations. (See related article.)

Under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Act for Fiscal Year 2006, the United States may not use appropriated funds to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree, with the exception of assistance to promote democratic elections or public participation in democratic processes.

The legislation permits the resumption of U.S. assistance when the president determines and certifies to the Committees on Appropriations of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that subsequent to the termination of assistance a democratically elected government has taken office.

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