"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. [...] Despite differences on Burma policy and human rights issues, shared economic and security interests have long provided the basis for U.S.-Thai cooperation. [...] Since 2006, Thai politics have been dominated by a fight between populist forces led by Thaksin (now in exile) and his opponents: a mix of conservative royalists and military figures, and other Bangkok elites. Like Thaksin, none of the successive governments has been able to stem the violence of an insurgency in the southern majority-Muslim provinces. A series of attacks by insurgents and counter-attacks by security forces has reportedly claimed around 4,000 lives since January 2004. 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."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32593