US Congress told democracy will return to Thailand, military coup is an interruption

US Congress told democracy will return to Thailand, military coup is an interruption

By Channel NewsAsia’s US Correspondent Priscilla Huff |
Posted: 25 July 2007 1613 hrs


Photos 1 of 1


WASHINGTON : The United States is confident democracy will return
to Thailand following last year’s military coup, as the Thai people
want to do so as quickly as possible.

That assessment was made during congressional hearings for the men
who hope to become America’s new ambassadors to Thailand and Vietnam

Whenever a US president names new ambassadors to any country, they must
face confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, and so the future of
Thailand came under the microscopic gaze of the US Congress.

Eric John most recently served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of
State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and he told the
confirmation panel that he believes democracy will eventually return to

“The coup is a significant interruption but I would define it as
that an interruption. I think people remain optimistic in Thailand and
outside of Thailand… And at the end of this coup, there will be a
government in place that truly was elected and put in place by the Thai
people,” says Eric John, nominee for US Ambassador to Thailand.

With protests against the introduction of military rule growing in
Thailand, the United States continues to call its withdrawal of some
aid from the country a “correctly calibrated response”.

The man who hopes to become America’s man in Bangkok says he thinks
the country is on track for elections by the end of the year.

“International pressure was appropriate but for the Thais to work
the coup and get back to a democratically elected government, it really
is up to the Thai people,” says John.

“I think we’ve seen that the Thai people very much want to get back as
quickly as possible to democracy. I think the adherence to the
timetable is more of a tribute to the pressures and demands that the
Thais have put on the government to get a constitution, to get a
democratically elected government in place, than anything else,” he

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to quickly
approve the nominations for the new ambassadors to Thailand and

But both countries challenge the Bush administration’s push for
democracy, with the coup in Thailand and the communist government in

US President George Bush has been reaching out to Washington’s former enemies in Vietnam.

The president recently welcomed his Vietnamese counterpart to the
White House amid US hopes that capitalism, or at least economic growth,
will change the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese.

“As one of the fastest growing economies within ASEAN and indeed,
second only to China in the entire Asia Pacific region, we think there
are tremendous opportunities there to not only improve the US-Vietnam
relationship but also spillover into other areas of human endeavour,
including social areas and even human rights,” says Michael W.
Michalak, nominee for US Ambassador to Vietnam.

Another stumbling block for US-Vietnamese relations is a shared
history of war – an estimated 1,300 American soldiers never came home
from the conflict that ended in 1975.

One prominent Democrat on Capitol Hill says she wants the country’s
new ambassadors to take a single message to their hosts in Bangkok and

“If they want to be seen as strong, then they should allow dissent
in a way, that’s speech, that doesn’t hurt anybody else. Anything other
than that makes them look weak, impotent and not worthy of emulation,”
says Senator Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.

That’s a message the new envoys will get a chance to deliver when
they take up their new postings – possibly later this year. – CNA /ls


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  1. The United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)

    Press Release
    25 July 2007

    Dear friends and Foriegn correspondents in Thailand

    The events of the past few days leave me with great consternation. Firstly there was unprovoked aggression by the state, in the form of reckless baton wielding and tear gas showered upon what was an essentially peaceful protest against the unconstitutional activities of Gen Prem, leaving a lot of people injured and in pain. Secondly, my colleagues in select domestic media have chosen to offer a heavily biased coverage of the tragic incident, pushing into oblivion, the plight of the protestors and putting to rest the concept of “neutral reporting”. To them, I can only make exhortations to display greater courage and responsibility.

    Late on Tuesday night (July 23rd), the government demonstrated that not only it capable of displays of overt aggression, like the kind it did to the protestors, but its also capable of activities of subtle, private coercion. My associate Oley dropped me off at a safe house and later on his way home he stopped at a convenience store to pick up food , when all of a sudden, four men emerged from the darkness and whisked him off in a bag to an unknown destination. He was then forced to drink a strong dose of what is suspected as sleeping medicine, and led to other places, before finally leaving him in the passenger seat of his own vehicle at a Big C Super market in Bang Bua Thong district. A definite statement of the vulnerability of all elements of the UDD against the great government machine.

    Let it be known that such threats of action will only make our resolve to stand up for democracy and individual freedom much stronger, and that our moral fiber is dyed to the last strand in the colors of the cause and cannot and will not fade with either force or lure of any kind. The government has resolved to arrest the leaders of the UDD under the trumped up charges of engineering mob violence at the demonstration, and is facing a tough time in the courts trying to prove its assertions. The UDD is wedded to belief in the power of truth and non-violence and is committed towards adopting just those means to accomplish its noble objectives.

    The government has displayed its true colors by engineering the drafting of a constitution, that will prolong its stay in power, and is now looking to engineer its adoption by gagging free debate on the topic. Also, it might just be a matter of time before the UDD leadership is put behind bars to make smooth for the CNS.

    However we’re prepared for all eventualities, and will be proud to resist every force that will try to restrain fellow Thais from achieving their natural rights of freedom and self determination

    Jakrapob Penkair

    The United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD)
    104 Soi 40 Phatthanakarn Rd.
    Suan Luang, Bangkok 10250
    Tel: (662) 720 4500 Fax: (662) 720 4707


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