Senator Biden on Military Coup in Thailand

Date: Sept. 20, 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Foreign Affairs

Senator Biden on Military Coup in Thailand

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the military coup in Thailand.

"Last night, Thailand suffered its first military coup in a decade and a half. This is a setback for the cause of democracy, both in Thailand and elsewhere in the world.

"Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has been a controversial figure in Thailand: he's alienated a lot of citizens with his authoritarian policies, alleged corruption, and his brutal, inept handling of an insurgency in the country's southern provinces. But he's also been democratically elected—twice— and remains a popular figure in many parts of the country. This isn't a question of support or opposition to any particular leader: it's a question of support for the institution of democracy.

"After decades in which Thailand was governed by a succession of military regimes, the past fifteen years have seen a blossoming of democracy. Much of the credit belongs to Thailand's monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the nation's only truly unifying political figure. King Bhumibol has used his immense moral authority to discourage potential military coups and steer his country squarely on a democratic path. This coup, like previous ones, was carried out in the name of King Bhumibol. I hope that the King will insure a restoration of democracy, on a timeframe measured in days or weeks, not months.

"Today's statement by coup leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin was highly disheartening: the suggestion that Thailand can wait until October 2007 - at earliest - for the restoration of democracy is simply not acceptable. The United States must help resolve this crisis peacefully. We should do so in concert with Thailand's neighbors, and with the rest of the world community. Gen. Sonthi and his associates must understand that US law mandates the suspension of military aid following a coup—if there's not a restoration of democracy very quickly, we could be legally locked into an aid cutoff.

"Thailand and the United States are close friends, and this friendship is strengthened by our shared espousal of democratic values. It is sadly ironic that Thailand would take a giant step away from democracy at the very moment when President Bush was speaking at the United Nations about the centrality of democracy promotion to America's foreign policy. Any weakening of Thailand's fledgling democracy would be a tragedy—for Thailand, for bilateral Thai-US relations, and for the cause of democracy around the globe."