Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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U.S.-Thailand relations are of particular interest to Congress because of Thailands status as a long-time military ally, a key country in the war against terrorism in Southeast Asia, and a significant trade and economic partner. A proposed U.S.-Thailand Free Trade Agreement FTA would require implementing legislation to take effect. However, the recent ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra by a military coup has cast uncertainty on how these U.S. priorities will fare in the near future. Future U.S.-Thai relations will likely depend upon how quickly the military rulers fulfill their promise to restore democratic rule. Despite differences on Burma policy and human rights issues, shared economic and security interests have long provided the basis for U.S.-Thai cooperation. Thailand contributed troops and support for U.S. military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was designated as a major non-NATO ally by President Bush in December 2003. Thailands airfields and ports play a particularly important role in U.S. global military strategy, including having served as the primary hub of the relief effort following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The high-profile arrest of radical Islamic leader Hambali in a joint Thai-U.S. operation in 2003 underscores Thailands role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The U.S.-Thai bilateral trade total is 25 billion Thailand is the United States 19th largest trading partner. Until the political turmoil of 2006, Thaksin and his populist Thai Rak Thai party had consolidated broad control of Thai politics. Before his ouster, opposition parties and international watchdog organizations had criticized his strongman style as a threat to Thailands democratic institutions. Thaksins response to a counterinsurgency in the southern majority-Muslim provinces also came under fire. A series of attacks by insurgents has renewed concerns about both indigenous and, potentially, transnational terrorism in the country.
- Government and Political Science