Thailand: Background and U.S. Relations [February 8, 2011]   [open pdf - 340KB]

"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 from Thaksin-aligned parties were forced to step down because of court decisions. A coalition of anti-Thaksin politicians 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 anti-government protestors in March 2010. By May, the conflict escalated into the worst violence in Bangkok and other cities in decades. Although the government has remained in place, parliamentary elections are required by the end of 2011 and threaten to again spark conflict within a deeply divided society. […] Under the Obama Administration, the United States has prioritized engagement with Southeast Asia. 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 the region and has been an aggressive advocate of increased economic integration. But growing U.S. engagement with Indonesia and Thailand's domestic problems appear to have dimmed the prominence of the U.S.-Thai relationship in Southeast Asia. Thailand maintains close relations with China and is considered by some to be a key arena of competition between Beijing and Washington for influence."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL32593
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