Thailand is a long-time military ally and significant trade and economic partner for the United States. In 2013, Thailand was the United States’ 24th largest goods trading partner, with $38 billion in total two-way goods trade. For many years, Thailand also was seen as a model of stable democracy in Southeast Asia, although this image, along with U.S. relations, has been complicated by deep political and economic instability in the wake of two military coups in the past eight years. The first, in 2006, displaced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a popular but polarizing figure who remains a focus of many divisions within Thailand. The second, in 2014, deposed an acting prime minister after Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted from the premiership by a Constitutional Court decision that many saw as politically motivated. The 2014 coup threatens the traditionally strong U.S.-Thai security relationship and could disrupt trade and investment links, two developments that some analysts believe could open the door to greater Chinese influence in Thailand. The coup also exacerbates concerns of international groups, some Members of Congress, and U.S. officials regarding Thailand’s human rights record. Thailand’s role as a source, destination, and transit country for human trafficking has received attention following the State Department’s downgrade of Thailand to the bottom-most Tier 3 of its Trafficking in Persons Report. Thailand has been criticized for alleged human rights violations as the country struggles with a separatist insurgency in the majority-Muslim southern provinces. While the ethnic Malay insurgents have sought autonomy for decades, the violence in the region has intensified since January 2004, and approximately 6,000 people have died in the conflict since then.
Date of Report: August 28, 2014
Number of Pages: 2
Order Number: IF00049
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