Thai military takeover: 'Coup' or not?

 

The U.S. is reviewing whether to declare the military takeover in Thailand a coup, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.

"Well, first, this only happened several hours ago. So we're currently reviewing," said Army Col. Steve Warren, when asked if the military’s actions in Bangkok were a coup.

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Thailand's army chief announced Thursday that the country’s security forces had declared martial law and taken control of the government following street protests by groups opposed to the ruling party.

Under American law, formally declaring the takeover a “coup” could trigger sanctions and cut off U.S. military and non-humanitarian aid to Thailand.

There are approximately 700 U.S. troops currently in Thailand as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) naval exercise.

"Specifically, here in the [Defense] Department, we're reviewing our military-to-military assistance, and engagements, including the CARAT exercise," Warren said.

"We're reviewing our options now and we'll let you know when we've come to a decision," he added, when asked if U.S. troops would have to leave the country if the administration determines a coup took place.

In 2013, the Obama administration avoided declaring the military takeover in Egypt a coup, despite pressure from lawmakers.

Supporters of the decision said triggering laws that cut off non-humanitarian aid to the military regime would have cost the U.S. leverage as it sought to push Egypt back to democratic rule.