"U.S.-Thailand relations are of interest to Congress because of Thailand's status as a long-time military ally and a significant trade and economic partner. However, ties have been complicated by deep political and economic instability in the wake of the September 2006 coup that displaced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. After December 2007 parliamentary elections returned many of Thaksin's supporters to power, the U.S. government lifted the restrictions on aid imposed after the coup and worked to restore bilateral ties. Meanwhile, street demonstrations rocked Bangkok and two prime ministers were forced to step down because of court decisions. A new coalition headed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva assumed power in December 2008. Bangkok temporarily stabilized, but again erupted into open conflict between the security forces and antigovernment protestors in March 2010. By May, the conflict escalated into the worst violence in Bangkok in decades. With the capital gripped by violence and uncertainty, many questions remain on how U.S. relations will fare as Bangkok seeks some degree of stability. [...] With its favorable geographic location and broad-based economy, Thailand has traditionally been considered among the most likely countries to play a major leadership role in Southeast Asia and has been an aggressive advocate of increased economic integration in the region. A founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand maintains close ties with China and is pursuing FTAs [Free Trade Agreement] with a number of other countries. Given its ties with the United States, Thailand's stature in the region may affect broader U.S. foreign policy objectives and prospects for further multilateral economic and security cooperation in Southeast Asia. This report will be updated periodically."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32593