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Thailand Under Threat of US Aid Withdrawal

As of  June 24, the United States announced the possibility of reducing U.S. foreign aid to the Kingdom of Thailand in response to the repressive military junta.

Typically, Thailand receives about $10.5 million in security-based aid from the U.S., and Washington, D.C. recently cut off $4.7 million from their long-time ally.

Another sign of high tensions between the two nations is the suggested removal of U.S. regional major exercises out of Southeast Asia. Since 1980, Thailand and the U.S. have participated in Cobra Gold, one of the biggest military exercises that also influences relations, together with about 13,000 participants from around the Southeast Asia region. It has not been confirmed whether the exercises will go on or be stopped.

The chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia, Representative Steve Chabot, acknowledged the possible dangers of continuing with the exercises, stating it “could clearly send the wrong message” to Thailand and other global figures “in light of the repressive nature” of the military junta currently puppeteering the nation.

Levels of unrest are also extremely high in Thailand at the moment due to the intense regime in which the constitution has been suspended. This forces many repressed people to find other, more combative ways, to express the dissent with the junta. Should the U.S. get too deeply involved by keeping the military exercise in Thailand this year, there is a threat of long-term expenses and involvement not accounted for by the U.S.

The U.S. is not the only world power to acknowledge the danger Thailand is facing. The European Union also commented in a statement on June 23 that they condemn the junta, stating that a credible government should form “as a matter of urgency, the legitimate democratic process and the Constitution, through credible and inclusive elections.” The response from Thai spokesperson, Sek Wannamethee, explains the disappointment felt by the lack of support from the E.U. for not viewing the coup from all angles and seeing the supposedly measured reasoning on the part of the military.

This military coup stands out from the previous ones experienced in Thailand before due to the oppressive measures taken and the sense of permanency it holds. Should this continue, it is likely that the U.S., as well as other nations, will withdraw more security-based funds as the junta continues their reign.

– Elena Lopez

Sources: Channel News Asia, Bangkok Post, Wall Street Journal
Photo: Flickr