International reactions to the coup in Thailand have been remarkably cautious and fairly restrained. What is particularly interesting is that there have been few calls for the restoration of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin. Instead the calls have been made for the restoration of democracy to Thailand.
The United States have condemned the military coup in Thailand and have promised to review aid to Thailand. However, it is unlikely to go as far as imposing economic sanctions on Thailand. Thus far, the US has suspended official US military trips to Thailand and froze all temporary duty in Thailand. The already problematic US-Thai Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is likely to stay stalled until the restoration of democracy. The US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey has responded to the Thai military promise to appoint a new civilian premier within two weeks after the coup by saying, “We’d like to see more rapid response than that… a swift return to democratic civilian government is in order, and that includes a swift holding of elections.”
One of the strongest criticisms of the coup or rather, the backer of the coup- the Thai King- was from the Telegraph newspaper in the United Kingdom. While it conceded that Thaksin was partly to be blamed, it warned that the King’s support for the coup would stain the Chakri dynasty.
Closer to the region, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen Qin Gang has said that “the changes taking place in Thailand are its domestic affairs. The Chinese government consistently pursues the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries.”
The Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Taro Aso has issued a press statement saying, that the Japanese government “strongly hopes to see the situation normalised and the democratic political system restored promptly.” The statement also called the coup “regrettable.”
The Philippines President Arroyo said in a statement, “As a neighbour, long-time ally and fellow member of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), we express our solidarity with the people of Thailand in their search for peace and unity; and we are thankful that not a single drop of blood was spilled during recent events.” The Philippines government and military officials have been eager to dispel any suggestion that there would be a coup in the Philippines as per Thailand. The Arroyo administration has already survived several coup attempts.
The Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said, “I am really shocked. I didn’t expect a coup would have taken place in Thailand. If there is chaos, then don’t go (to Thailand). But if the situation is under control, and if the authorities have assured businessmen, for example, or anyone at all that they can go, then it should not be a problem.” He also assured that there would not be a repeat of the Asian Financial Crisis because of the coup. Nonetheless, Malaysia would take the necessary precautions to prevent any eventualities.
The Malaysian daily paper, Berita Harian has published an editorial “Thailand should immediately restore democracy” on 21 September 2006. The editorial acknowledged the divisive role played by Thaksin and the support given by the respected Thai king to the coup but argued that “the coup is not the best method for changing a government.”
In a relatively surreal development, Malaysia’s Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz has insisted on holding a meeting with Thai officials over Thailand’s refusal to lower the 20% tariffs on Malaysian-manufactured cars to 5% as supposedly provided for under ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). She said that the military coup in Thailandwas an internal issue and should not affect the previously agreed upon date of meeting. However, she later changed her mind and said that she would wait for the formation of a new Thai government before pushing for new negotiations on the issue of the tariffs.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo has expressed “shock and great concern” over the coup. He also called on all parties to seek reconciliation and restore constitutional government.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said, Jakarta “hopes the democratic principles- important elements in the ASEAN community that have been agreed together- will remain enforced.” The head of the Indonesian parliamentary commission dealing with foreign affairs, Theo Sambuaga, said the coup was “a step back in the life of Thailand as a democratic country.” He also called on ASEAN members “not to endorse or recognise the coup d’etat.”
The coup has probably damaged Surakiart’s already diminishing chances to be the next United Nations Secretary-General. Although ASEAN officials have reiterated their support for Surakiart’s bid, China has suggested that Surakiart’s candidacy was hurt by the coup, saying that his bid is now “more complicated.” As for Thaksin, he must be wondering why he has so little support in the international community with almost none of the major powers or neighbours calling for his restoration.
Malaysia Awaits New Thai Govt Before Revising Auto Tariff Dispute (Agence France Presse, 24 September 2006)
US Eyes High Stakes in Southeast Asia to Push to Restore Thai Democracy (Agence France Presse, 24 September 2006)
Thailand, ASEAN Still Backing Surakiart Candidacy For Secretary-General Despite the Coup (The Associated Press, 23 September 2006)
Philippines Hope Thai Democracy Restored; Army Alert Said Ahead of Anniversary (BBC Worldwide Monitor [The Philippines Star website], 22 September 2006)
Malaysian Daily Calls for Early Restoration of Democracy in Thailand (BBC Worldwide Monitoring [Berita Harian website], 22 September)
S’pore Backs Surakiart For UN Top Job (The Business Times Singapore, 22 September 2006)
Muscle a Step Back for Region (The Daily Telegraph [Australia], 22 September 2006)
Malaysia Electronic Newspaper Carries Roundup of Reactions to Thai Coup (BBC Worldwide Monitoring [Malaysiakini.com], 21 September 2006)
Lower Auto Tariffs or We May Retaliate (New Straits Times, 22 September 2006)
PM Dispels Fears of Asian Financial Crisis Following Thai Coup (Malaysia General News, 21 September 2006)
Thailand’s King Reverts to the Bad Old Days (The Daily Telegraph [London], 21 September 2006)
China Says Thai Coup Complicates UN Secretary-General Race (The Associated Press 21 September 2006)
RI Hoping Thailand Resolve Political Crisis Properly (Antara, 20 September 2006)
3rd LD- China Exclusive: China Says Changes in Thailand Are Internal Affairs (Xinhua General News Service, 20 September 2006)
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang’s Comment on the Current Situations [Sic] of Thailand (20 September 2006),http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/xwfw/s2510/2535/t272786.htm
Statement by Mr Taro Aso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the Coup d’Etat in Thailand (20 September 2006),http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/announce/2006/9/0920.html