September 26th, 2006 04:20 EST
State Department calls for quick handover of power by Thai Council
Washington -- The Bush administration remains concerned over the decision by the Thai ruling council, which seized power September 19 in a military coup, to limit freedom of expression, and calls on the council to honor its stated commitment to return Thailand to the civilian control "as quickly as possible."
Speaking at the State Department September 25, deputy spokesman Tom Casey said the ruling council has decided "to limit some issues regarding freedom of expression, both in terms of political gatherings as well as media. … [W]e're concerned, first and foremost, about restrictions on civil liberties."
The military, which ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his government, reportedly pledged to name a new civilian prime minister within two weeks, but said elections -- originally scheduled for November 2006 -- would be delayed until October 2007.
Casey said the United States wants to see the ruling council honor its commitment to name a civilian prime minister within two weeks, but "[i]n terms of elections and election timetable …. We think that that should be accomplished more quickly" than one year.
"[U]ltimately, it's through holding elections that we believe you can return Thailand to a situation where you clearly have a government that represents the will of the people," he said. "Anything that happens in between that time needs to be done in accordance with Thai law."
Asked about the ruling council’s plan to set up a probe to investigate allegations of corruption by members of Thaksin's administration, Casey said the Bush administration would not be in favor of "any kind of movement that was politically motivated rather than in accordance with the rule of law."
However, "[t]hings that are done … in accordance with Thai law and in accordance with those procedures are things that should happen and will happen," he said.
A senior administration official, speaking on background, said the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and Ambassador Ralph Boyce have been in communication with "pretty much all the players" in Thailand. The official said this includes individuals in the country’s political parties; the military, including members of the ruling council; officials in the palace; and members of the opposition.
"The thing that is being pressed home particularly with the ruling council is the need for them to show that they’re serious about the commitments that they’ve made … [to] put a civilian prime minister in as quickly as possible, [and] set up a timetable for elections," the official said.
The senior official repeated the U.S. view that elections "can and should be done sooner than the year that they’ve laid out."
For more information on U.S. policy, see Democracy and East Asia and the Pacific.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)