The US and Thailand’s military coup [World Socialist Website]

26 May 2014

The US response to last week’s military coup in Thailand was utterly cynical. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that he was “disappointed by the decision of the Thai military to suspend the constitution and take control of the government,” urged “a return to democracy” and warned that military and other assistance programs would be reviewed.

Kerry’s “disappointment” had nothing to do with any concern for the democratic rights of the Thai people. Rather the Obama administration’s overriding concern throughout seven months of political upheaval in Bangkok has been to preserve its close, longstanding relations with the Thai military as part of its broader “pivot to Asia” and military build-up against China throughout the region…

…Last week’s coup follows the same pattern as the military’s ousting of Thaksin in 2006. WikiLeaks cables later revealed that US ambassador Ralph Boyce had been briefed about the military takeover several weeks in advance and had given the nod of approval. Both sides understood there would be cosmetic US aid cuts. However, US funding continued for law enforcement, counterterrorism and non-proliferation programs. Thailand kept its preferential treatment as a major non-NATO ally and the joint Cobra Gold military exercises, one of the world’s largest, went ahead as planned in 2007 under the junta. The Obama administration undoubtedly gave the green light for the latest coup as the Bush administration did in 2006.

The military’s actions are not aimed primarily against the pro-Thaksin faction of the ruling class, but against the working class and the rural poor. The fear in Thai ruling circles, and also in Washington, is that the protracted factional infighting could open the door for a movement of workers and peasants in conditions of negative economic growth, rising social tensions and corporate demands for austerity.

While giving tacit support to the coup, the US is also seeking to minimise the impact on relations with the military. Thailand is a formal military ally and has sent troops to fight in neo-colonial US wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Vietnam War, 50,000 American troops were based in Thailand and US bombing raids took off from Thai airbases.

The importance of Thailand to the Pentagon’s war plans were underscored by a 2009 WikiLeaks cable from US ambassador Eric John which noted that “our military quietly access the [Utapao] air base over 1,000 times per year for flights in support of US operations, including missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.” He also noted that the US military used the same air base “for flights on targets of intelligence interest, and we received permission for these operations as a matter of routine, without having to answer questions to the purpose of the flights. It is hard to imagine another Asian nation so easily permitting such operations. While we avoid publicising our use of Utapao to avoid Thai sensibilities regarding the perception of foreign basing, Utapao and other Thai air fields and seaports remain vital to our force projection objectives in Southeast Asia.”

Washington’s implicit support for last week’s military coup in Thailand is a warning to the working class throughout Asia and internationally. Far from being a champion of democracy, US imperialism is increasingly relying on right-wing regimes, such as the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, daughter of former US-backed dictator Park Chun-hee, as it seeks to reassert US hegemony through the “pivot to Asia” and prepares for war against China. The Thai junta is the latest…

Peter Symonds

Excerpted; full article link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/26/pers-m26.html

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