U.S. 'reasonably confident' Thai military will not stage coup

by Reuters
Tuesday, 13 May 2014 15:37 GMT

WASHINGTON, May 13 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. official said on Tuesday the United States was "reasonably confident" the military in close ally Thailand would exercise restraint and not intervene in the Southeast Asian country's political crisis.

Amy Searight, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, told a discussion at a Washington think tank it was "reasonable to think there were lessons learned" after a 2006 military coup, which saw Washington cut aid to Thailand, its closest military ally in the region.

"But that is speculation on our part to some degree," she said. "Are we confident that they will continue to be restrained and professional in all of this?

"We are reasonably confident, in the sense that it's a complex situation and a lot of things can happen and for that reason we are monitoring it closely and keeping in close touch with our Thai counterparts," Searight said.

"So I don't want to say that we are over-confident about any outcome ... but at this point in time we don't have reason to expect that the Thai military will change its current stance."

The Thai military has intervened frequently in politics in the past. But it has stayed on the sidelines of the current crisis despite calls from some pro-establishment forces for it to oust the government loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown by the army in 2006.

"The military is not planning to stage a coup and it will let politicians sort the country's problems out," a spokesman for the army, Winthai Suvaree, told Reuters on Monday.

The Thai military has staged 18 coups or attempted coups since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.

Searight said she believed the Thai military was being "strategic" in its restraint.

"And it has been pretty open about the fact that it has no interest in getting involved in terms of running Thai politics again," she said.

Searight said the United States "respects Thailand's need to address its internal issues and find a path forward that works for the Thai people."

"But in the midst of the crisis, DOD (U.S. Department of Defense) commends Royal Thai Armed Forces restraint and professionalism that they've shown throughout. It really demonstrates the evolution of Thai civil-military relations in a positive direction," she said. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by David Gregorio)

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