The Heritage Foundation

Asian Backgrounder #112

April 9, 1991

April 9, 1991 | Asian Backgrounder on

Six Steps to Improve U.S. -Thai Relations

(Archived document, may contain errors)

No. 112 April 9,1991

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EMODUMON At the same time as American-led coalition forces began their ground offen- sive into Kuwait on February 23, Royal Thai army units were fanning out across Bangkok, Thailand's capital, seizing key government buildings and arresting Prime Minister Chatichai Choonhavan. As quickly as it began,'Thafland's seven- teenth military coup d'etat in the past 59 years toppled the democratically-elected Chatichai administration without any loss of life. Within one week, the coup leaders had organized an interim civilian government, promulgated a provisional constitution, and promised an early return to a civilian-led elected administration. Concerned by the setback inflicted onThailand's maturing democratic institu- tions, the United States Embassy in Bangkok on February 23 issued a statement expressing deep regret over thecoup. Consistent with U.S. laws governing foreign aid- Washington immediately suspended its $16.4 million in economic and ;&@@ aid for fiscal 1991 to Bangkok until a democratically-elected government returns to power. Strong Friend. For several good reasons, the Bush Administration is following events in Bangkok closely. The Thais long have ranked as one of Washingtoifs strongest friends and allies in Southeast Asia; with shared interests, Thailand and America repeatedly have cooperated in defending parallel security concerns, most notably in Cambodia and Laos, and before that, in South Vietnam. Most recently, Thailand provided airbases for U.S. aircraft refueling on their way to the Persian Gulf. Bangkok also sent medical teams to Saudi Arabia to assist the U.S.-

.................. ..... NO.%, .. led forces. In addition, Thailand's high1v successful GF__j .... . ...... .............. . ... ............... ... . . ....... export-oriented economy is ........... ...... . ........... ............ ... .......... iij. ;jjjjj:iK::)ft .:::, :: x a model for the 'Jum'oe a M ............................ ...... ........ ..... Newly Industrializing enz fit:' Countries, and has helped convince fellow members of Ba ...... .... to adopt more ASEAN ou a free market economic ....................... .. strategies. Thailand's roupi4--jW`@ 14 cooperation with the U.S in ...... ...... .......... M suppressing narcotics traf- .. ..... .. .. .... .. .. .......

................................. fic, moreover, is key to con- .0 .......... ...... . ............. fronting the opium warlords 'd or orce::-::3-- Mon ...... ... ... @: wgi im titife, '=rmg:::::: 5 to of the infam .1 ous GoldenTri- ces 15 anale, the mountainous

in ........ region whe Laos, :5@b on,-,- re Burma, lJ" .... .. ... and Thailand touch. ......... .... . ....................... ... ... --fibfil Washington now faces a $20bilh ... ... ..... --cekNi,i:, 11-12ina, iilgas`@l dilemma in its.relations tw t a bra 'esour m with Bangkok. On the one iiurn;-@@:. hand, Section 513 of the id:.: 6. lt@ ii:. cotn` ...... I... .... Fiddid6b .W. Foreign Operations, Export t .... 1. ... ... Financing, and Related Tit=.:: 0 . . ................... a 99O.Eadom;-31 Programs Appropriations -*A &Cl W He"'rita gm ..oun WWI 1...60. n Act requires the Bush Ad ....... .... .... .. .. ... .... ..... ........ ministration to keep aid to Thailand suspended until Thai elections are held; this may not occur until April 1992. During this time, Washington will press Bangkok's military leaders to return as quickly as possible to democratic rule be- cause of the stability it offers to Thailand and because of the example it sets for the one-party communist systems in Cambodia, Uos, and Vietnam. The U.S. can point out that Thailand saw its greatest economic gains during Chatichai's democratic administration. On the other hand, the U.S. does not want to damage its close security relation- s hip withlbafland. Such damage may result from the pressure Washington ap- plies and prolonged cessation of U.S. aid. Many of the U.S. aid programs that have been suspended, moreover, such as International Military EducationTrain- ing (IME'l) funds, had exposed Thai military personnel to American democratic values and strategic interests, and have helped keep the Royal Thai Armed For-

1 The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, composed of Brune4i: Indonesia, Malay" the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. ces, equipped and trained with American weapons. In fact, the Thai military consis- tently has been the strongest proponent of mutual U.S.-Thai strategic interests in the region. Trade Friction. Ile U.S.-Ilai relationship also is complicated by recent trade friction. American pharmaceutical companies, among others, are dissatisfied with Ilailand's poorly-enforced, or in some cases non-existent, patent protection laws. Counterfeits of American products, including pharmaceuticals, video cassettes, clothes, and computer software, are openly and widely available in7tailand. As a result, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has received two petitions filed by American manufacturing associations against Thailand, which now must be inves- tigated under the provisions of the so-called Super 301 clause of the 1988 Trade Law. These petitions charge Thailand with poor enforcement of patent protection for items like video cassettes and computer software and no patent protection for pharmaceuticals. Trouble, too, continues regardingllai imports of American cigarettes. Despite last year's agreement between the USTR and Bangkok that ended Ilailand's longstanding ban on cigarette imports, some U.S. tobacco com- panies like RJ. Reynolds Tobacco International charge that continued Thai dis- criminatory policies effectively block sales of their products to Thailand. Washington and Bangkok clearly face complex and severe challenges to their bilateral ties until Ilailand's next democratic elections, and even beyond. Until Bangkok holds elections, criticism of the Thai generals from the U.S. Congress, and possibly the State Department, is likely to grow. Though tempted to pressure the Thais to retim to democratic rule, the Bush Administration must balance this with the need to retain America's security relationship with Bangkok and its military. Washington also must recognize that heavy pressure or isolation of Thailand could damage important U.S.-Ilai cooperative programs like narcotics suppression and joint military exercises. Heavy pressure from Washington also could cause Bangkok to retaliate by refusing to settle contentious trade issues. To overcome these challenges, the U.S. should craft measured policies to nudge Thailand back toward democracy while safeguarding U.S.-Ilai bilateral ties. These policies require six steps: Step #1: Urge Thailand quickly to set a date for democratic elec- tions. Step #2: Press the interim Thai government to ratify strict anti- narcotics laws. Step #3: Urge the interim government to take temporary measures to increase protection of copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property. Step #4: Press the interim government to remove remaining bar- riers to cigarette imports. Step #5: Negotiate with Thailand expanded landing rights for U.S. military planes and repair facilities for U.S. war- ships to help offset the likely closing of U.S. military bases in the Philippines. Step #6: Work closely withlbai leaders to press the Phnom Penh regime to reach a comprehensive settlement of the Cambodian war this year.


As with the militaries in other Asian nations like Indonesia, Pakistan, and until recently the Republic of Korea, the Thai military is the most powerful and coherent institution in the country. With only brief exceptions, the Royal Thai Armed Forces has either directly or indirectly ruled Thailand since the end of World War IL Changes inThailand's military-dominated leadership typically have occurred through coups d'etat. Typically, too, Thai coups are bloodless, with the deposed leader sent unharmed into exile until the next coup or election. From 1945 to 1980, there were fourteen coups in Thailand. Since then, they have been less frequent. This relative stability began with the rise of Prime Mini- ster PremTinsulanond, a former general who in 1980 replaced Kriangsak Chomanan as unelected leader. In Prem's eight-year rule, during which the Thai economy began its export-led boom, coups were attempted in 1981 and 1985. Neither came close to success, prompting many. observers inside and outside Thailand to speculate that the country's political succession problem perhaps had matured beyond coups. In August'1988, Prem allowed democratic elections, the first in twelve years. Chosen as Thailand's new prime minister and replacing Prem who voluntarily yielded power, was Chatichai Choonhavan, another former general. In his first year in office, Chatichai maintained excellent relations with the military, while at the same time helping lead the Thai economy toward record-setting double-digit growth. Early last year, however, civilian-military relations began to fray. At issue were successive personal feuds between several of Chatichai's advisors and top generals. To make matters worse, Chatichai turned a blind eye to corruption within his administration, which was overwhelming even byThai standards. So in- tense became the strains that Chatichai briefly resigned last December, only to return to his post a few hours later. Breaking Point. By early this year, the Chatichai-military standoff was at a breaking point. For its part, the Royal Thai Armed Forces had grown more unified than ever, since many key commanders hailed from the fifth (1958) graduating class of the Thai Military Academy. In the Thai army, such class affilia- tion is even more -important than branch of service in determining loyalties. Despite the overwhelming power wielded by the military's Class 5, Chatichai this January allegedly covered up a newly-discovered 1982 plot by renegade army officers from a rival military class to assassinate Prime Minister Prem and the Queen. Class 5, which was demanding a full investigation, was infuriated by the reported cover-up. Finally, in mid-February, Chatichai gambled by naming as Deputy Defense Minister Athit Kampang-ek - long a nemesis of Class 5. It was this that sparked the February 23 coup. In the immediate wake of the coup, the constitution was abolished, the ap- pointed Senate and elected National Assembly were dissolved, and martial law was declared. Chatichai, Athit, and a small number of government officials and advisors were briefly detained and released; Chatichai soon flew to exile in Swit- zerland. To rule the country, Thailand's top military leaders formed what they call the National Peacekeeping Council (NPC); dominating the NPC is General Suchinda Khraprayn, a Class 5 graduate. The NPC at first promised to end martial law and hold elections within six months; the generals have now hinted elections may be delayed another eight months, to April 1992. In addition, the NPC appointed an interim civilian government, which was approved by King Bhumibol Adulyadej on March 2. Named Prime Minister was Anan Panyarachun, a former Ambassador to the U.S.; the Foreign Minister is Asa Sarasin, another former Ambassador to the U.S.


Though often eclipsed by Japan and the so-called FourTigers or Newly In- dustri-glimn Countries (NICs) of Hong Kong, the Republic of China onTaiwan, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore, Thailand has become one of Asia's great economic success stories. Between 1965 and 1980, the Thai gross domestic product grew by an average of 72 percent a nnually. In the 1980s, the economy shifted from largely agricultural production toward export industries like-in- tegrated circuits and textiles. Through this transition, Thailand maintained an an- nual average 6 percent gross domestic product growth from 1980 to 1987. In the following three years, Thailand boomed, growing at or above 10 percent each year. Thailand owes its economic success to several factors. First, the 1984 devalua- tion of its currency, the baht, gave Thai exports a cost advantage over the U.S. dol- lar and the Japanese yen. Second, cheap Thai labor poured into the new export in- dustries; this came at a time when labor costs were rising within the NICs. Last, the NICs began graduating into more capital- and technology-intensive produc- tion, leaving a vacuum for "junior" NICs like Thailand to MI. Gulf War Setbacks. By late last year, Bangkok was forecasting yet another year of strong economic growth. Key to this prediction was the anticipated arrival this year of 6 million tourists, up from an average 2 million in the previous decade. These predictions, however, were dashed by the Gulf War. SuddenlyThailand faced soaring oil prices and no-show tourists. Bangkok, in particular, was iden- tified by U.S. intelligence as a target for Arab terrorists. In addition, unempIoy- ment surged as Thai workers streamed home from the Persian Gulf.2

2 Financial 7-unes, February 6, 1991. The Gulf War's quick end is thus good news for Bangkok. Tourism already has rebounded. Ile Kuwait government is asking for double the previous number of Thai workers, totalling 16,000, to assist in reconstruction. This year's gross domes- tic product growth, which had been revised down to only 7 percent, has been revised upwards to 8.5 percent.3 S61L problems lurk for the Thai economy. For one thing, Thailand's business and manufacturing infrastructure, concentrated around Bangkok, is stretched thin and could stifle further expansion. For another thing, Thailand is short of skilled labor; only 30 percent of Thai teenagers are enrolled in secondary schools, a share considerably lower than that in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. If Thailand expects to graduate into more capital- and technology@- intensive in- dustries, more skilled labor is needed.


U.S. security relations with Bangkok consistently have been among the closest in Southeast Asia. As early as 1950, the U.S. established inTbailand a covert ad- visory mission called the Overseas Southeast Asia Sea Supply Company. Its staff conducted such sensitive operations as training Vietnamese military units from French Indochina and combatting armed Chinese bandits smuggling opium along the Burmese frontier. So close was the U.S.-Thai relationship that three American citizens were officially commissioned within the Thai Border Patrol Police; one even attained the rank of colonel. During 1951-1953,11ailand deployed an infantry regiment to fight alongside Americans in the Korean War. By the late 1950s, America and Thailand were working together to keep Laos from falling to communist insurgents. In 1959, a U.S.-funded training program was opened in Lopburi, Thailand, for Laotian military units. At the same time, Thai intelligence teams crossed into Laos to gather information on the status of the Royal Laotian Army, and on the threats posed by the communist Pathet Lao. Later, these team evaluated the situation in Cambodia. Joining Against Communism. During the 1960s, as communist forces gained ground in Laos, Thailand's training program for Laotian government troops ex- panded from Lopburi to sites at Hua Hin, PranburL and Phitsanulok. When Washington requested other Asian nations to send military units to fight in South Vietnarn,Thailand dispatched the Queen's Cobras Regiment, later expanded into the Black Panther Division. In addition, Bangkok gave Washington de facto con- trol over the Thai airbases at Korat, Nakhon Phanom, Takhli, Ubon, Udorn, and U-Taphao for use in the bombing campaigns over the Ho Chi Minh Trail - the communist supply conduit running through eastern Laos into South Vietnam - and North Vietnam. Three more massive airfields were constructed in north- easternThailand to be used as emergency crashpits for B-52 bombers returning from combat operations. A sprawling U.S. intelligence collection center, the

3 FBIS-EAS-91-045, March 7,1991, p. 67. largest in Southeast Asia, meanwhile, was assembled at Nakhon Phanom to coor- dinate bombing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In the early 1970s, U.S.-Thai cooperation in Indochina peaked when a U.S.- funded program was initiated to recruit volunteerThai military units to stiffen the decimated Laotian army. From 1970-1974, some 27 Thai infantry battalions were stationed in Laos; nearly 3,000 Thai soldiers were killed on the Laotian battle- front. As war ravaged neighboring Cambodia, Thailand and the U.S. again cooperated in establishing training programs in-Thailand for Cambodian officers, airmen, and Special Forces units inThailand. Bangkok also provided T-28 fighter and AC-47 Spooky gunship support for Lon Nol's Cambodian forces. Vietnamese ThreaL In the late 1970s, Bang kok and Washington again were con- fronting communist threats in Indochina. A Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 resulted in a pro-Vietnamese and pro-Soviet Cambodian puppet government being installed in Phnom Penh. Nearly 200,000 Vietnamese troops remained in Cambodia. On several occasions these troops launched attacks into Thailand against sanctuaries for Cambodian guerrillas resisting the Vietnamese occupation. Bangkok correctly viewed the massive Vietnamese military presence on its border as a direct threat to Thai security. Accordingly, Washington agreed to a Thai request for the establishment of a reserve weapons stockpile in Thailand to be used to block a potential Vietnamese invasion. In addition, in an effort to press Vietnam into withdrawing from Cambodia, Thailand and the U.S. began as- sisting the non-communi t Cambodian guerrilla resistance that was battling the Vietnamese occupational army. Under the Bush Administration, security ties with Bangkok have remained warm. Last June, Thailand announced that it plans to purchase from the U.S. 350 M-48AS tanks and 300 M-60A3 tanks. Last August, U.S. military aircraft flying to the Persian Gulf were allowed to refuel at Thai air bases. Before the ground of- fensive began in Kuwait on February 23, Thailand announced that it would grant the U.S. requests for refueling and any other assistance necessary to support Operation Desert Storm. 4 Despite this close cooperation, the Bush Administration was obliged by law to suspend all military and economic aid to Bangkok following the February 23 coup. Among the programs suspended: Nearly $2.4 million in International Military Education and Training funds for Thai military students during fiscal 1991. All anti-terrorism assistance. $2.5 million in Economic Support Funds for fiscal 1991 and $11.6 million in U.S. Agency for International Development assistance.

4 Testimony of Carl Ford, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs to the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, March 14,1991, p. 24. $22.7 million in unexpended prior year Foreign Military Financing. These programs will remain suspended until a democratically-elected govern- ment resumes power in BangkoL In addition, the Bush Administration has put on hold Bangkok's order for 650 U.S.-made tanks, even though the tanks were to be purchased with Thai government funds and thus do not automatically fall under the suspensions required by U.S. law.


More problematic than U.S.-Thai security relations have been trade ties. For many years, Thailand's relatively small, agriculturally-based economy allowed it to escape the attention of those foreign nations, including the U.S., that were demanding access to Japan and other large Asian countries that protect their markets. In the past four years, however, Washington has begun to scrutinize Thai treatment of exports from the U.S. What has prompted this scrutiny is Thailand's increasingly successful export-led economy and widespread violations of foreign copyrights and patents. As a result, there are several items of contention between the U.S. and Thailand. Among them: Intellectual Property Rights. Thailand does not respect international copyrights or patents. The country thus has become a mecca for the manufacture of counterfeits of brand-name watches, records, videotapes, designer clothes, and many other items. More serious is Thailand's pirating of computer software and other high technology products that cost Western companies enormou .s sums to develop and promote. Thailand, too, is hurt by such piracy. ne Research Depart- ment of the Bangkok Bank warns, for instance, that while computer software is a promising high value-added industry for Thailand, growth is slow because piracy cuts deeply into the profits of Thai computer program developers.5 The U.S. Trade Representative is considering a case against Thai intellectual property rights violations. Bangkok, for its part, has prepared a draft patent act to increase copyright protection, but has not passed the act into law. Pharinaceuticals.'Mailand has no patent protection for pharmaceuticals and is second only to India as the world's worst violator of pharmaceutical patents. On March 15, the USTR accepted a case filed by -the U.S. Pharmaceutical Manufac- turers Association against Thailand for its pharmaceutical patent violations. Cigarettes. Last October, the USTR negotiated an agreement with Bangkok en- ding the monopoly held byTtailand's state-owned tobacco industry. Now, foreign cigarettes can be imported legally. A similar agreement was reached in 1986 with the Republic of China on Taiwan; only weeks after the agreement's signing, American cigarettes began arriving. InThailand, however, not a single U.S. cigarette has been imported legally. Numerous impediments still block them. Ex-.

5 Bangkok Post Weekly ReWew, February 22,1991, p. 13. ample: only one bonded warehouse is available for the imported cigarettes in all of BangkoL Example: American cigarette makers normally place a tax stamp on the cigarette pack at the time of ManU ; the Thais want the stamp affixed after the cigarettes arrive in Thailand, an extremely cumbersome process. Bangkok's red tape hurts not only foreign importers through lost sales, but also the Thai government because of lost tax revenues on the large amounts of smug- gled U.S. cigarettes sold illegally in-Mailand.


U.S.-Thai relations have come to a crossroads. While the relationship is strained by the automatic suspension of U.S. economic and military assistance, Washington still wants to preserve America's mutually beneficial ties with Bangkok. After all, some areas of cooperation, like anti-narcotics programs and military refueling agreements, benefit America more thanTlailand. Further com- plicating matters is trade friction, which will be difficult to resolve even when democracy is restored inTbailand. For the immediate future, Washington must balance its desire for democracy in Bangkok with policies designed to foster U.S.-Thai cooperation in trade and regional security issues. The U.S. should take six steps to spur this cooperation while nudging1bailand back toward democracy: Step #1: Urge Thailand quickly to set a date for democratic elections. With a return to democratic rule not expected before spring 1992, Thailand's military leaders likely will come under increased foreign criticism including from the U.S. Congress. To defuse some of this foreign pressure, the Bush Administration should urge the interimlbai government to announce an election date as soon as possible. Step #2: Press the interim Thai government to ratify strict anti-narcotics laws. Ile U.S. funds a $4 million anti-narcotics program in Thailand to combat drug from the mountainous GoldenTriangle region where Burma, Laos, and Thailand converge. The Thai government long has cooperated with the U.S. in fighting the GoldenTriangle's drug warlords. This has included several heli- borne attacks into the region during the early 1980s which resulted in hundreds of casualties amongThai Border Patrol Police.1be U.S. recently asked theThai government to increase its efforts, including enactment of a law that would allow the Thai authorities to seize assets belonging to convicted drug smugglers operat- ing onThai soil. With U.S. aid to Thailand now suspended, however, it may be politically unpopular in Bangkok to push for legislation viewed as benefitting primarily America. In return for passage of a law enabling authorities to seize the assets of drug smugglers, some Thai officials hint that they would appreciate U.S. assistance 'in wm*m*ng contracts for some reconstruction projects in the Persian Gulf. T'he Bush Administration should view this as an appropriate trade for en- hanced Thai anti-narcotics legislation.


Step #3: Urge the interim Thai government to approve temporary measures to improve protection of copyright36 patents, and other intellectual property. Thailand's protection of intellectual property is among the worst in the world. The USTR is considering two petitions against Thailand, one concerning pirating of video cassettes and computer software, and a second concerning pharmaceuticals. Complicating matters, Thailand cannot enact new laws on intellectual property rights or on anything else because the military leaders have dissolved the National Assembly. A new National Assembly probably will not convene before next spring. Recognizing that a permanent law cannot be passed without a National As- sembly, the USTR should urge the interimThai government to decree temporary measures that would protect intellectual property rights until the matter can be debated in a new National Assembly. In doing so, U.S. ers can get the best protection under the circumstances, while Thailand can defuse some of the protectionist sentiment that well may increase in the U.S. due to its repeated copyright violations. Step #4: Press the Thai government to remove remaining barriers to cigarette imports. The Thai cigarette market traditionally has been dominated by the so- called Thailand Tobacco Monopoly. Last October, however, Bangkok agreed to admit foreign cigarettes. Yet Thai officials are slow to resolve key technical issues that block imports. The result: an effective continuation of Bangkok's state-run tobacco monopoly. Although it officially dropped its investigation of the Thai cigarette monopoly last November, the USIR should continue during its discus- sions with Thai officials to insist upon the removal of all red tape that prevents im- port of U.S. cigarettes. step #5: Negotiate expanded landing rights for the U.S. Air Force and ship repair agreements for the U.S. Navy in Thailand to help offset the likely closing of U.S. military bases in the Philippines. -Although a new basing agreement be- tween the U.S. and the Philippines may be near, which could extend for the short term American use of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base, long-term prospects for U.S. access to Philippines bases are dim. Most Southeast Asian nations, fear- ful of Chinese domination or Japanese expansionism, would like U.S. military for- ces to remain in the region. Already Singapore has signed agreements for the basing of U.S. military aircraft and ships. As it is, the U.S. and Thailand have a longstanding agreement to allow U.S. Air Force planes to refuel at Thai air bases. The U.S. should begin negotiations with the Thai government to expand this agreement to allow greater U.S. access to Thai air and naval bases. Example: Thailand could allow portions of a U.S. fighter squadron to remain inThailand for exercises with the Royal'Thai Air Force for up to two months each year. Example: Thailand could allow increased ship repair privileges for U.S. Navy vessels, which could be coupled with the expansion of port facilities along the southernThai coast. Bangkok would benefit greatly from the jobs and expanded infrastructural development such agreements could offer. Step #6: Work closely with Thai leaders to press the Phnom Penh regime to reach a comprehensive settlement to the Cambodian war this year. Efforts by the United Nations to broker a Cambodian settlement made much progress last year until international attention was diverted to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. With Iraq's defeat, the United Nations again is considering Cambodia, and many In- dochina watchers predict a Cambodian settlement within a year. Both the U.S. and.1hailand long have supported a comprehensive settlement in Cambodia that would include a ceasefire, internationally@-supervised elections, and participation of non-communist Cambodians in a coalition government alongside the Chinese- supported Khmer Rouge resistance and the Soviet-backed Cambodian regime in Phnom Penh. The Chatichai government, however, in an effort to turn Indochina into a marketplace forThai exports, opened direct contact with the pro-Soviet Cam- bodian government in Phnom Penh. The result: Chatichai's soft approach toward Phnom Penh has led to increased intransigence on the part of the pro-Soviet regime during international talks aimed at resolving the Cambodian war. In fact, Phnom Penh's lack of cooperation became the major stumbling block in last year's settlement talks sponsored by the United Nations. In an effort to reapply pressure on the Hun Sen regime, the newTbai interim government has an- nounced a halt to all direct Thai contact with Phnom Penh. The Bush Administra- tion should voice publicly its appreciation of Thailand's new hardline approach toward Phnom Penh and work closely with Bangkok to press the Phnom Penh regime toward a comprehensive settlement of the Cambodian war this year. The Bush Administration specifically should redouble its cooperative efforts with Thailand in providing non-lethal humanitarian assistance to the non-communist Cambodian guerrilla resistance. Preserving Mutual Benefits. Since the end of World War H, America and Thailand have shared substantial interests. Diplomatically, Bangkok has been one of America's closest friends in Southeast Asia. More so than with any other Asian nation, Americans and Thais have fought side-by@-side on battlefields across Asia. Economically, Thailand's rising status as a "Junior" Newly Industrializing Country offers increased opportunities for U.S. exports. The February 23 coup threatens some aspects of this close relationship. Now more than ever, it is important that the U.S. act prudently in balancing its desire for the restoration of Thailand's maturing democratic institutions with the more enduring need to preserve mutually beneficial strategic cooperation, trade links, and anti-narcotics suppres- sion that have closely bound Washington and Bangkok for the past four decades.

Kenneth J. Conboy Deputy Director Asian Studies Center

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