U.S. Concerned About Thai Constitution, Elections Timetable

03 October 2006

U.S. Concerned About Thai Constitution, Elections Timetable

White House calls for clear, unambiguous protection of civil liberties

monk stands near soldiers
Thailand’s military overthrew the government in a coup on September 19. (© AP Images)

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.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)

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