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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during a press conference, Bangkok, Thailand, May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Thailand’s Junta Is Seeking a Return to Normalcy With the United States

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In July, according to spokespeople for Thailand’s government, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha will come to Washington for a White House visit. It promises to be a substantial diplomatic and reputational boost for both Prayuth, who led the coup in May 2014 that deposed Thailand’s most recent elected government, and the junta running Thailand, which remains a U.S. treaty ally.

Former President Barack Obama did not offer Prayuth a White House invitation, although Obama did meet with him as part of a summit in California of Southeast Asian leaders in February 2016. The Thai junta repeatedly expressed anger at the Obama administration for the steps it took to condemn the military’s intervention in politics in 2014. The Obama administration cut back the size of the Cobra Gold joint military exercises—the U.S. military’s biggest multilateral exercises in Southeast Asia—and suspended training for Thai soldiers and many other bilateral U.S.-Thai exchanges, among other measures. The Obama administration was also publicly critical of the deteriorating state of democracy in Thailand. In response, junta leaders publicly welcomed closer defense and economic ties with China, partly as a means of demonstrating that Bangkok would not be dependent on Washington. ...

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