BANGKOK — A senior Chinese minister reportedly praised the May 2014 military coup in Thailand and vowed to strengthen ties between the two countries during his state visit in Bangkok today.
Gen. Chang Wanquan, Minister of the Defense of the People's Republic of China, expressed his "understanding" of the political situation that led to the coup, according to Col. Kongcheep Tantrawanich, a spokesperson for the Thai Ministry of Defense.
Gen. Chang Wanquan (L) and Thai junta chairman Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok, 6 Feb 2015.
"The Chinese government understands the political situation in Thailand because it has been following very closely," Col. Kongcheep quoted Wanquan as saying. "The Chinese government is aware that Thailand has gone through complicated changes in recent years. He also praised the Thai armed forces for taking control of the situation to restore peace and order, as desired by the people."
Thailand's military junta says it imposed martial law and toppled an elected government on 22 May 2014 to restore order after the country had been rocked by six months of sporadically violent anti-government street protests.
According to Col. Kongcheep, Wanquan said "the Chinese government respects the Thai government's solution to its domestic problems, and will not interfere."
Wanquan's visit to Bangkok follows the cooling of diplomatic relations between Thailand's post-coup military government and the United States, which has criticized the coup and called for a return to democratic rule. On Thursday, a senior US State Department official told reporters that the US would not fully restore its military alliance with Thailand until the junta cedes power to a democratically elected government.
Last month, US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel raised the ire of Thai officials by urging the junta to repeal martial law and all restrictions of civil rights. The Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the speech “disappointing” and accused Russel of interfering in Thailand’s domestic affairs. The MFA later summoned the US Charge d'Affaires in Bangkok to discuss Russel's remarks.
In contrast to the US and other western countries, the Chinese Communist regime has never publicly criticized Thailand’s military coup. Three days after the military takeover, The Global Times, a pro-government Chinese daily, published an editorial describing the coup as a result of the "disorder" caused by experiments with Western-style democracy in Thailand.
"As Western democracy has thrown many small countries into disorder, more and more people began to realize that destructive elements may be activated if China adopts it," the editorial said. "Fortunately, China has the wisdom and capability to seek an independent political path."
According to Col. Kongcheep, Wanquan assured the Thai government that Chinese authorities will support Thailand in various fields, such as exchanging intelligence reports and cracking down on the narcotics trade, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes.
China will also "support Thailand's defense industry" and cooperate economically with the Kingdom, Col. Kongcheep told reporters.
Despite diplomatic tensions, the US is still set to commence its annual Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand on 9 Februray.
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