Political Turmoil in Thailand and U.S. Interests [May 26, 2009]   [open pdf - 134KB]

"Thailand has been destabilized by years of political turmoil since a military coup deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006. Mass demonstrations on both sides of the political divide have disrupted tourism and business in the kingdom, and twice forced the postponement of an international Asian leaders' summit. Since late 2008, a new coalition government has struggled to hold on to power by offering conciliatory gestures to the opposition and avoiding a violent military crackdown. This report examines the government's performance, the role of the military, Thaksin's impact on the situation, and the royal family's influence. It assesses the prospects for more elections, the degree of control exercised by the army over the civilian government, Thaksin's activities and possible future in Bangkok, and the role of the palace in current Thai politics. As a formal U.S. treaty ally, Thailand's situation holds implications for the United States. The instability of the past several years has made many question the reliability of Thailand as a major regional partner as well as cast doubt on Bangkok's commitment to democratic governance. Others argue that, despite the political turmoil, the well-established defense relationship remains very valuable to the United States, even as opportunities emerge with other Southeast Asian countries. The relevance of competition with China in the region and the impact of Thailand's difficulties on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are also examined. This report will not be updated. Tracking of current events in Thailand can be found in CRS Report RL32593, Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations, by Emma Chanlett-Avery."

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CRS Report for Congress, R40605
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