Archive for February, 2015

February 6, 2015

US tells Thailand to restore democracy or alliance is over

Police stand guard outside the US embassy in Bangkok January 28, 2015. — Reuters pic

BANGKOK, Feb 6 — The United States will not fully reactivate its military alliance with Thailand as long as the junta-controlled country refuses to restore democracy, a US diplomat warned yesterday.

“There has to be a full restoration both of the institutions of governance and justice as well as the full restoration of a duly democratically elected civilian government,” the senior State Department official told journalists.

It follows a recent visit by Daniel Russel, the most senior US official to travel to the kingdom since Thai generals imposed martial law and took over in a coup last May.

The United States strongly condemned the coup at the time, with chief diplomat John Kerry calling for a return to civilian rule via democratic elections.

Washington and Bangkok maintain a military alliance dating to the Cold War and the fight against communism in Southeast Asia, notably during the Vietnam War.

US and Thai armed forces remain tightly linked, but the United States cancelled joint military exercises after the coup and suspended a small part of its military assistance to Thailand. — AFP

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February 6, 2015

Thailand’s Military Moves Closer To China


Thailand’s Military Moves Closer To China

Scott Neuman@
February 06, 201511:45 AM ET
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China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, left, and Thailand’s Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan walk during a ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

Sakchai Lalit/AP

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET

Thailand’s junta — smarting over U.S. criticism of last year’s coup that ousted an elected government — has announced that it will strengthen military ties with China over the next five years.

An agreement with Beijing was announced during a two-day visit to Bangkok by China’s defense minister, Chang Wanquan, reports Michael Sullivan. The two sides say they’ll increase cooperation in intelligence-gathering and fighting transnational crime.

The Bangkok Post says: “China’s Defense Minister Chang Wanquan also took pains to stress that Beijing has no plans to ‘interfere’ with Thailand’s military regime, something the Thai government feels its long-time ally, the United States, did last month during the visit of a high-ranking diplomat.”

The high-ranking diplomat in question, Daniel Russel, is the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs. Russel sparked the ire of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government last month with a speech at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University that criticized the government’s crackdown on free expression and called for an end to martial law, which has been in force since the May coup.

“I’ll be blunt here,” Russel told the audience at Chulalongkorn, one of Thailand’s most prestigious universities. “When an elected leader is deposed, impeached by the authorities that implemented the coup, and then targeted with criminal charges while basic democratic processes and institutions are interrupted, the international community is left with the impression that these steps could be politically driven.”

The remarks referred to the impeachment of twice-elected former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted in the May putsch. Her impeachment came months after she was ousted and living in self-imposed exile.

After the speech, Thailand’s deputy foreign minister summoned the U.S. embassy’s charge d’affaires, W. Patrick Murphy, to express his concern over “a wound that the U.S. inflicted on Thai people.”

Thailand’s move is viewed as a possible shift away from Washington, even as the U.S. has hoped to pivot toward Asia.

The two countries are viewed as strong allies and closely cooperated during the Vietnam War, despite Thailand’s revolving door of military governments. Even so, an annual joint military exercise between the two countries, known as Cobra Gold, is scheduled to go ahead as planned on Feb. 9, although Washington has scaled back the scope of it since the May 22 coup.

On Thursday in Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. would not fully reactivate its military alliance with Thailand until there has been a “full restoration both of the institutions of governance and justice as well as the full restoration of a duly democratically elected civilian government.”

In addition to moving closer to China, Thailand’s new leadership has also sought closer ties with neighboring Myanmar, which has its own history of military governments.

February 6, 2015

Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat

 Reuters U.S. Edition

Thailand boosts military ties with China amid U.S. spat

BANGKOK. Fri Feb 6, 2015 2:39am EST

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Chang reviews a guard of honour at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok

China’s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, accompanied by Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan (L), reviews a guard of honour during his visit to Thailand, at the Defence Ministry in Bangkok February 6, 2015.

Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

(Reuters) – China and Thailand agreed on Friday to boost military ties over the next five years, from increasing intelligence sharing to fighting transnational crime, as the ruling junta seeks to counterbalance the country’s alliance with Washington.

The agreement came during a two-day visit by China’s Defence Minister Chang Wanquan to Bangkok, and as Thailand’s military government looks to cultivate Beijing’s support amid Western unease over a delayed return to democracy.

“China has agreed to help Thailand increase protection of its own country and advise on technology to increase Thailand’s national security,” Thai Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters.

“China will not intervene in Thailand’s politics but will give political support and help maintain relationships at all levels. This is China’s policy.”

Under the junta, Thailand has stepped up engagement with China at a time when Beijing increases its influence in Southeast Asia with a raft of loans and aid for infrastructure.

At the same time, Washington has sought to show its renewed commitment to a strategic “pivot” toward Asia by boosting military ties and equipment sales across the region.

Prawit said Thailand and China agreed to increase joint military exercises, but did not give further details.

“We agreed to increase joint military exercises between Thailand’s air force and China’s air force and to increase overall military cooperation over the next three to five years,” he said.

Thailand’s army took control last May saying it needed to restore order after months of political unrest including street protests in Bangkok that killed nearly 30 people. The United States, a long-time ally of Thailand, expressed dismay at the coup and froze $4.7 million of security-related assistance and canceled some security cooperation.

U.S.-Thai relations deteriorated further last month when Bangkok accused Washington of meddling in its political affairs over the remarks by a visiting U.S. envoy who criticized the junta.

The junta has said it will hold onto power for at least another year, with a general election planned for early 2016.

Despite the tensions, the U.S. will hold its annual Cobra Gold combined military exercise with Thailand next week. The drill, however, has been scaled down in scope to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The drill, the Asia-Pacific’s largest annual multinational military exercise, also involves China.

(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)



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