Thai military 'must back democracy'

US defence secretary warns against coup amid continuing political unrest.

    A week of protests in Bangkok has sparked fears the army will again intervene [AFP]

    At Sunday's meeting with Samak Sundaravej, Thailand's prime minister, and a dozen senior military officers, Gates said America's relationship with Thailand was "based upon shared democratic values".

     

    An unnamed official travelling with the US defence secretary told reporters the message was "not hectoring" but was "clear, and respectful".

     

    In February the US lifted restrictions on aid to Thailand after Samak's democratically elected government took power.

     

    Washington suspended about $35m in annual assistance, including funds designed to promote military professionalism, after the 2006 coup that topped Thaksin.

     

    Thailand has seen at least 18 coups or attempted coups since the end of rule by absolute monarchy in 1932.

     

    Protests

     

    Gates met the Thai prime minister and leading
    military officers on Sunday  [AFP]

    The weekend meanwhile saw further street protests against Samak's government, in defiance of government threats to use for to break up demonstrations.

     

    On Saturday Samak had threatened to use the police to break up a rally of 6,500 anti-government protesters.

     

    But police did not move against them after an apparent reversal by the prime minister, who accused the media of misreporting his remarks.

     

    Protests continued on Sunday but with numbers down to the hundreds rather than thousands.

     

    Analysts say violence stemming from a clampdown on protests could add to concerns about the army being drawn back into the political fray.

     

    Last week Thailand's military commander denied reports that he had implied the unrest could trigger a coup attempt.

     

    Supreme Commander Boonsrang Niumpradit had been quoted as saying that he could not guarantee members of the armed forces would not launch a coup, but he later said his remarks had been taken out of context.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    The woman who cleans up after 'lonely deaths' in Japan

    When somebody dies lonely and alone, Miyu Kojima steps in to clean their home and organise the mementos of their life.

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    Putin and the 'triumph of Christianity' in Russia

    The rise of the Orthodox Church in Russia appears unstoppable, write filmmakers Glen Ellis and Viktoryia Kolchyna who went to investigate the close ties between the church and Putin.

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    The chill effect: Is India's media running scared?

    Much of India's media spurns a scoop about the son of PM Modi's right-hand man. Plus, NFL as platform for race politics.