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Thailand – US Partner in Distress

Published on: April 25th 2009 13:49:21
While calm has returned to Bangkok after a week of political turmoil, Thailand’s deep political divisions remain. The abrupt cancellation of the ASEAN summit meeting on April 11th, in which anti-government protesters swarmed the meeting’s venue, has renewed doubts about the durability of the Thai government. Even though State Department spokesman Wood condemned the violence and urged Americans visiting Bangkok to exercise caution, the Administration stopped short of further comments. The summit debacle was an embarrassment for Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government which came to power in December 2008 through parliamentary defections that the opposition says were engineered by the military to keep supporters of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra out of government. Despite Abhisit’s declaration of an emergency decree to evacuate the meetings attendants, Washington’s reaction will remain muted. In light of the country’s unabated political crisis, US analysts argue that Thailand’s reputation as an international trade, investment and travel hub is being eroded. Informally, delegates at the truncated meeting said they were surprised by the extensive security breach, particularly since the previously scheduled summit was postponed in December. The cancellation of the ASEAN summit – set to be the biggest international gathering since the G20 summit in London – further highlights the Administration’s position toward Thailand. Even though Thailand remains a valued US ally in Southeast Asia, no indication has been given as to whether Secretary of State Clinton will attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Bangkok in July as promised.

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