American academic urges U.S. to increase help to Thailand

4_Hill2To help Thailand during its difficult political and economic transitions, the United States government should build more trust and provide whatever assistance is necessary as an investment in the future of its relationship with an old and staunch ally, a professor from Northwestern University wrote in The Hill, the official publication of Congress, last week.

“Thailand is at a critical juncture and needs the help of the United States,” wrote Jillana Enteen, and assistant professor of Asian American Studies at Northwestern University. She cited concerns among some observers who believe the military is trying to exercise too much influence in the Kingdom’s attempts to create a new political framework and is stifling dissent.

The United States cut military aid to Thailand after the military intervened in May 2014 to end political protests, violence and divisiveness that had paralyzed the government and triggered economic stagnation. U.S. law required the cut in aid, but the U.S. has also scaled back participation in the annual Cobra Gold joint military exercises and American officials have said the bilateral relationship will not return to normal until democracy is restored.

“To help Thailand in its time of need, the United States should end the mixed signals and fully lift sanctions. This would be a sign of trust to help them through this tumultuous time. It would be a way to reach out and affirm our country’s longstanding relationship with Thailand. It is not a lot to ask for a long-time ally,” Enteen wrote.

Enteen listed the many times that Thailand has stood by the U.S. during their 184-year alliance, including sending troops to support the U.S. during the Korean and Viet Nam wars, and the fact that Thailand has been designated a “major non-NATO ally” by the U.S.

“Not only is it right to help Thailand because of these connections, but helping Thailand now is also an investment for a safer future. The recognition of our historical and continued alliance can help them continue to stay democratic,” she wrote. She also urged America to stand by its ally. “Being a good ally means helping when we don’t always need help back,” Enteen wrote.