Skip to comments.The Military Coup in Thailand Is Putting the U.S. in an Awkward Position
Posted on 05/24/2014 9:23:08 AM PDT by mgist
In 1961, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, Section 508 of which states that the U.S. must cut aid to countries in which a duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup until the resumption of civilian rule.
On Thursday, in Thailand, a duly elected head of government was deposed by military coup. Two days after instituting martial law, General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the military was taking over the government and suspending the Constitution.
That means the U.S. must cut aid to Thailand, right? Not necessarily. In a statement later Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said:
I am disappointed by the decision of the Thai military to suspend the constitution and take control of the government after a long period of political turmoil, and there is no justification for this military coup . I urge the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as press freedoms. The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people.
"While we value our long friendship with the Thai people, this act will have negative implications for the U.S.Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law."
Although Kerry stopped short of declaring sanctions, the fact that he used the word coup has significant implications for the U.S. response. Last year, President Barack Obama initially avoided cutting aid to Egypt, another important military ally, by refusing to call the military overthrow of Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected president, a coup. The law does not require us to make a formal determination as to whether a coup took place and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at the time. The U.S. later cut military aid to the country.
Of course, it would have been hard for the U.S. not to call the overthrow in Thailand a coup, given that General Prayuth announced as much in his televised statement. The U.S. will almost certainly suspend some of its military and economic aid to Thailand, but there are ways for the U.S to abide by its legal obligations without abandoning Thailand or losing influence with the military.
The U.S. is probably compelled by the law to suspend some aid, and yes we need to abide by the law, said Ernest Z. Bower of the Center for Strategic & International Studies. But whats really important is strong private diplomacy.
America's friendship with Thailand is long indeed. The country is Americas oldest treaty partner in Asia, with military alliances dating back to the Korean and Vietnam wars. Today, the U.S. uses the Thai Navys U-Tapao airbase to transport soldiers and supplies in and out of Afghanistan. Though unconfirmed by the CIA, Thailand reportedly hosted one of the agencys black sites where Al Qaeda terror suspects were interrogated.
This friendship took a hit not long ago: In response to the last military coup there, in 2006, the U.S. cut off its development assistance and military financing and training programs for the duration of the military's rule, which lasted a year and a half. But the U.S. maintained funding for law enforcement, counterterrorism and nonproliferation efforts, global health programs, and the Peace Corps. The U.S. also allowed Thailand to keep its status as a major non-NATO ally and decided to continue with Cobra Gold, the yearly bilateral military exercise held in Thailand.
The U.S. response in 2006 was not adequate, said Joshua Kurlantzick a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. He said that in addition to cutting aid, the U.S. should suspend Cobra Gold and more explicitly condemn the Thai military.
However, leaked diplomatic cables indicate that the U.S. was weary of losing influence in Thailand to China. Two weeks after the 2006 coup, Chinese Senior Colonel Li Mingliang told a U.S. defense attaché "that his office looks at U.S. military sanctions as an opportunity to expand influence. Li confidently expressed hope that his approach of telling the Thai that 'China is your neighbor, we will be here long-term, we will not interfere in your internal affairs,' will give him a leg up on his American counterparts," according to a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.
Sino-Thailand ties have been historically strong, and a recent Congressional research report said that the rollback of U.S. military programs in 2006 allowed China to increase its influence in Thailands defense establishment.
The latest coup was Thailands twelfth since its independence in 1932. Some experts point to this frequency as evidence that the military hasnt learned its lesson and that the U.S. needs a stronger response. But Frank Jannuzi, a former State Department analyst and current president and CEO of the Mansfield Foundation, says foreign policy doesnt often have clear-cut answers and requires flexibility. The best way to boost the confidence of the Thai people in the U.S. is to support democratic governance without ignoring developments that go counter to that. But the U.S. needs to be a constant partner, not one that walks away when things are troubled, he said.
Bower said Thailand is starting to view the U.S. as a fair-weathered friend: The State Department overestimated the depth of the U.S. relationship with Thailand. It has atrophied since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, when they felt we left them out to dry.
According to Jannuzi, the military has a relatively positive reputation among the people and has intentionally distanced itself from political allegiances to either the recently ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra or her opposition, the Peoples Democratic Reform Committee. After more than six months of violent protests, and the current leadership void, General Prayuths claim that the military was forced to intervene to maintain stability is plausible.
Just before the coup, Bower had recommended that the State Department create a Thailand contact group in which American foreign policy heavyweights would be paired up with representatives from all sides of the conflict in Thailand to discuss a political solution. He doesnt think the coup eliminates this option, but more negative rhetoric from the U.S. might.
That the U.S. is now legally bound to do something that would be contrary to its interestsand not necessarily beneficial to the Thai peopleraises doubts about the utility of Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act.
Laws that dont have escape clauses, like national interest waivers or national security waivers, almost never work, said a former State Department official. All that happens is that the government will either deny the obvioussay its not a coupor if the government allows itself to be bound by it, it is deprived of the necessary flexibility in coping with each unique circumstance."
In the early 1990s, Senator Patrick Leahy began a push for legislation that would prohibit the U.S. from funding countries that commit human rights abuses. The Leahy Amendments were formally incorporated into the Foreign Assistance Act in 2008. When asked about circumstantial exceptions, Leahy spokesman David Carle said, The law doesnt allow for exceptions. The law says that in the event of a coup, aid to the government ends until democratic civilian government is restored.
Jannuzi predicts that Kerry and Obama will err on the side of diplomatic flexibility, so that the administration can assess the motivations of the Thai military.
One of the things that Washington will be looking for is concrete steps by the military to restore democratic rule. I get the feeling that that is the intention, because the Thai military has learned from experience that running a country is not fun, he said.
I’ve found the perfect demonstration of our current behavior in the world.
Laws that dont have escape clauses, like national interest waivers or national security waivers, almost never work, said a former State Department official.
We write laws.
We write laws badly.
But that's OK -- we like "escape clauses" so that we can ignore the parts of laws that we decide we don't like.
Kind of like Obamacare.
Thailand is in a similar situation to Syria, they are both key drug traficking routes. This is political posturing.
The ousted elected President, declared a war on drugs in Thailand, as did Assad in Syria. Soros is positioning his trafficking cartels all over the world. Honduras, Egypt, Ukraine, Benghazi, Thailand, and Venezuela are all about the drug trafficking trade and establishing narco nations.
Syrian rebels are openly funded and supported with US funds and military weapons. Syrian rebels have declared allegiance to Al Qaeda, another heroin cartel.
“In 1961, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, Section 508 of which states that the U.S. must cut aid to countries in which a duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup until the resumption of civilian rule.”
What a stupid law; a few years later we were in South Vietnam propping up a government that simply didn’t allow elections. Adolf Hitler was legally elected, the communist government overthrown by Franco was as well; heck, doesn’t North Korea’s leader get elected with 100% of the vote?
This 2008 article is prophetic.
Soros’s Role in Thailand’s Fascist Coup Attempt: Save the Drugs
September 2, 2008 9:19PM
Laws? Obama don’t need no stinking laws. The law is whatever Our Glorious Leader says it is.
It is good to be king.
My overall feeling -- in a very broad sense -- is that government tends to make things worse. We write bad laws. We waste money. Therefore, we ought to always push for smaller, more limited government.
Foreign assistance? Best way to avoid a mistake is to not have any.
Regulation of health care? Avoid problems by simply not making regulations.
Government schools? Get rid of them.
The government has proven itself incompetent on every level, for decades and decades. People need to see it as a fixable problem. Start by cutting the federal budget by 50%.
(Sorry, but Freeper canon demands such...)
“Start by cutting the federal budget by 50%.”
Amen to that. What a lot of people were seeing during the government shutdown has become increasingly “normal” here in the NYC metro area. I hike in state parks, and a lake that was damaged by Hurricane Irene (not Sandy; Irene a year earlier) hasn’t re-opened because there is no money to fix it (there is a now-old sign telling visitors the beach is closed, and to visit a neighboring one). Our roads are in horrible shape, police protection is thinned, and even this is unaffordable. Our government (at all levels) has wasted a lot of money for decades...
The cartels are in charge friends, and Obama is using US military and money to do Soros dirty work.
It is all a farce, a charade, Obama is serving drug cartels around the world.
Famed author Samuel Hersh described how Obama has consistently supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Al Qaeda, in the Middle East. They are essentially the heroin cartels.
The cartels aren’t the little gangsters on the street that go to jail. They are private bankers, hedge fund managers, and national leaders. South America is comprised of narco nations. Leaders bought and paid for by cartels. Wall Street banks launder their billions, and fill political coffers.
The SEC sees no evil while Wall Street banks launder $BILLIONS in cartel money. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/03/us-bank-mexico-drug-gangs
“the fact that he used the word coup “
Well,,,obama will use the word “coupe!”
Some pigs are more equal than others.
This is business as usual in Thailand. The US is making a much bigger deal of this than is warranted.
Every Thai PM loudly announces a “war on drugs”, arrests a few pathetic “mules” then the “war” slides away from sight except for token roadblocks which allow the police to solicit bribes from drivers for “serious paperwork problems in their auto license”. Meanwhile the traffic of drugs, primarily from Burma, goes on unabated.
The current problem is based on failed populism and the political machinations of an exiled populist PM through the his party and sister. It’s the old Thai run around where the party out of power promises reform and help for the poor. Once in power, they happily control the corruption to their own benefit. Then the Army steps in and protects their own segment of corruption. The Phua Thai party of the Shinawatras is particularly bad but has the support of the poor in the North and Northeast.
>> Soross Role in Thailands Fascist Coup Attempt: Save the Drugs <<
Sure, since the article is from a Larouche publication, it must be accurate.
So did his predecessors. That's why political activism on a national level is a waste of time and energy. "Render unto Caesar..." and all that.
“Thailand is in a similar situation to Syria”
Yup. Also a similar situation to Switzerland, and Japan. Pretty much four countries that are so similar, you can’t hardly tell them apart.