Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations [Updated February 21, 2008]   [open pdf - 216KB]

"U.S.-Thailand relations are of particular interest to Congress because of Thailand's status as a long-time military ally and a significant trade and economic partner. The currently-stalled proposed U.S.-Thailand Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would require implementing legislation to take effect. However, the ouster of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra by a military coup in September 2006 and subsequent economic and political instability complicated bilateral ties. After parliamentary elections in December 2007 returned many of Thaksin's supporters to power, questions remain on how the U.S.-Thai relationship will fare as Bangkok tries to restore political stability. Despite differences on Burma policy and human rights issues, shared economic and security interests have long provided the basis for U.S.-Thai cooperation. Thailand contributed troops and support for U.S. military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was designated as a major non-NATO ally by President Bush in December 2003. Thailand's airfields and ports play a particularly important role in U.S. global military strategy, including having served as the primary hub of the relief effort following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The high-profile arrest of radical Islamic leader Hambali in a joint Thai-U.S. operation in 2003 underscores Thailand's role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The U.S.-Thai bilateral trade total in 2006 was over $30 billion. […] 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. In the context of the Pentagon's transformation and realignment initiatives, current logistical facilities in Thailand could become more important to U.S. strategy in the region."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32593
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