The U.S. has responded swiftly to this week’s military coup in Thailand. American officials have characterised events in Bangkok as a coup, something they refrained from doing after the military’s June 2013 takeover in Egypt. And the State Department has already announced that the U.S. isscaling back$3.5 million in planned military aid.
Although the U.S. provides other forms of aid to Thailand, including $US1.3 million for narcotics and law-enforcement, there was around $US3.5 million requested for specifically military assistance in 2014. Today’s announcement wipes out nearly all of it.
Yesterday, Joshua Kulantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, explained to Business Insider that the U.S. has little to gain from the military’s moves and every reason to want to isolate the coup’s organisers. He says that military rule following the ouster of an elected government will likely erode existing civil institutions and could destabilize a significant southeast Asian country.
“The military is incapable of actually running the country in terms of the policymaking we would need to see with a pretty complex and high-powered economy,” he said, adding that “the potential for violence is now higher because the military has intervened.” In 2010, 90 protestors were killed in Bangkok during a rash of political violence.
But there are forms of military-to-military cooperation that might not be reflected in straight dollar amounts: Thailand hosts the Cobra Gold military exercises, one of the largest such annual operations on earth. Thailand is a major non-NATO ally, and all told, the U.S. and Thai militaries engage in around 40 joint exercises each year. After Thailand’s 2006 coup, the U.S. cut aid in accordance with laws prohibiting military assistance to governments that supplant elected leaders in a coup. But it did so without seriously downgrading relations — in 2007, Cobra Gold went on as planned.
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