BANGKOK — A spokesperson of the Thai military junta has confirmed that the US Embassy did not send any invitations to Thailand’s military regime for its annual Independence Day banquet yesterday.
Speculation that the US Embassy had snubbed the junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) arose after no senior Thai officials or representatives of the NCPO were present at July 4th party at the Conrad Hotel in downtown Bangkok last night.
When asked by a reporter at the reception, US Ambassador Kristy Kenny refused to comment on whether the embassy had invited any NCPO officials to the party. She only said the embassy sent out hundreds of invitations to different agencies and individuals.
Today Col. Winthai Suwaree, a spokesperson of the NCPO, said the junta did not receive any invitations to the party, but explained that it is "understandable" because the American authorities need to stick to “customs and rules of public display.”
In response to the military coup on 22 May, the US has downgraded its relations with Thailand, cut military aid, and repeatedly called on the military leaders to return power to an elected government .
Nevertheless, Col. Winthai insisted in today's press conference that the two nations still maintain cooperation on many levels. He explained that Ms. Kristy and the Thai military have discussed many official issues and that Thai authorities understand the customs and roles of American officials that prevent them from pursuing a more amiable relation, he said.
"Both sides have tried not to cause difficulty to each other," said Col. Winthai said, "I think that even in the [US’s negative reaction to the coup], there is still some understanding for Thailand, but they are restricted in terms of expression. I believe that in the future, the restrictions on their expression will gradually ease up."
Thailand's relations with other Western nations that have criticised the coup, such as Australia and European Union members, are also mostly unaffected at the moment, Col. Winthai claimed.
America praised and bashed
Washington's negative response to the 22 May coup has been met with mixed reactions from the Thai public, mostly divided along the lines of pro- and anti-coup camps. Those who support the coup condemn the US’s "interference" in Thailand's internal issues while those who oppose the coup have welcomed America’s response.
The debate surrounding the US response to the coup intensified after ministers of the ousted government were welcomed to the Independence Day party by Ms. Kristy, including former Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, who is currently facing trial in military court for defying an NCPO summons order.
Although several critics of the previous government were at the reception — such as Yellowshirt activist Somsak Kosaisuk — many pro-coup Thais have accused the US of supporting the deposed government.
"I have three words for you, America: I hate you!" Sakoltee Phattiyakul wrote on his Facebook today. Mr. Sakoltee was core activist of the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), which campaigned against the former government for six months prior to the military coup.
Meanwhile, a group of anti-coup activists showed up today in front of the US Embassy in Bangkok today and laid down flowers to celebrate America’s Independence Day. The activists also ate French Fries and Thai desserts to symbolise the solidarity between Thais and Americans before dispersing peacefully.
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