WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is reviewing military and other aid to Thailand following its “military coup,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday.
“There is no justification for this military coup,” Kerry said in a statement. “This act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military. We are reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.”
Thailand’s army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized control of the government in a coup on Thursday, two days after he declared martial law, saying the military had to restore order and push through reforms after six months of turmoil.
In his statement, Kerry said he was troubled by reports that Thailand’s senior political leaders had been detained and called for their release.
“I urge the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as press freedoms,” he added. “The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people.”
Under U.S. law, with limited exceptions no U.S. foreign aid may flow to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’etat or decree or ... a coup d’etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.”
The executive branch often takes weeks to decide whether a military coup has taken place and most aid must be cut off, using the time to try to push a country’s main actors toward a political resolution and the restoration of civilian rule.
In Egypt, where the armed forces ousted President Mohamed Mursi on July 3, the Obama administration debated the issue for weeks and ultimately sidestepped whether or not a coup had taken place by saying it did not plan to rule on the question.
In the case of Thailand, however, the administration appeared to have made up its mind quickly and signaled the direction it would take by having Kerry explicitly call the events in Thailand a “military coup.”
Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Eric Beech