WASHINGTON – The Bush administration on Wednesday denounced the military coup that seized control of Thailand and hinted that U.S. aid, military cooperation and improved trade relations might be in jeopardy
"We're disappointed in the coup," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters on Air Force One as Bush returned to Washington from New York after meetings with world leaders and an address to the U.N. General Assembly.
"We hope those who mounted it make good and make good swiftly on their (promise) to restore democracy," Snow said.
"There is no justification for it," said State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey, adding, "It is a step backward for democracy."
Casey said U.S. assistance programs for Thailand had been put under review. At the White House, spokesman Tony Snow said negotations on a free trade agreement with Thailand depended on restoration of democracy.
"We hope those who mounted it make good and make good swiftly on their (promise) to restore democracy," Snow said as President Bush returned to Washington from a speech and meetings at the United Nations in New York.
The coup leaders Tuesday seized control from a government headed by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, suspended the Constitution and declared martial law in Bangkok, the capital.
Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, the army commander who seized the government, pledged to hold elections by October 2007. He received a ringing endorsement from Thailand's revered king.
The military took control while the prime minister was in New York preparing to address the special session of the U.N. General Assembly.
"The most important thing is to see a restoration of constitutional rule as soon as possible," Casey said.
He said that talks on a U.S. free trade agreement with Thailand depend on the restoration of democracy.
At the Pentagon, a spokesman, Army Col. Gary Keck, said officials were "reviewing the legal and policy ramifications" of the coup for U.S.-Thai military relations, which are longstanding and extensive.
Thailand has been a key U.S. military ally for decades. During the Vietnam war, the Royal Thai Navy Air Base at Utapao hosted U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers and other aircraft as well as thousands of U.S. troops. The base was used by the U.S. military during tsunami relief operations for Indonesia and Thailand in December 2004-January 2005.
For more than 20 years, U.S. and Thai armed forces have conducted a regular exercise, code-named Cobra Gold, to improve coordination in peacekeeping and other humanitarian relief operations.