By Justin Sink - 05/22/14 01:30 PM EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "disappointed" by the Thai military's move to seize control of the national government, and warned the coup would have "negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship" in a statement issued Thursday.
"I am disappointed by the decision of the Thai military to suspend the constitution and take control of the government after a long period of political turmoil, and there is no justification for this military coup," Kerry said.
"I urge the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as press freedoms," Kerry said. "The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people."
In a national address earlier Thursday, the head of the Thai military said it was seizing control because rival factions had been unable to find a suitable way to govern, according to CNN.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha told Thai citizens that the military had imposed a curfew, ordered all cable providers to carry only the signal of the army's television channel, and temporarily closed the nation's schools. It is the 12th successful military takeover there since the end of outright monarchy in 1932.
The coup came three days after the military had declared marital law, but insisted it was not attempting to take control of the government.
Kerry said that the State Department was reviewing U.S. assistance to Thailand in light of the takeover. U.S. law prohibits the funneling of aid to governments that have been taken over by a coup.
"While we value our long friendship with the Thai people, this act will have negative implications for the U.S.–Thai relationship, especially for our relationship with the Thai military," Kerry said.
The State Department explicitly did not declare recent military takeovers in Libya and Egypt to be coups, allowing the U.S. to continue funneling aid to those countries. Last year, the U.S. temporarily suspended some aid to Egypt after the overthrow of elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, but ultimately resumed the flow of assistance. Leaders in Washington were reluctant to punish the Egyptian military and put a peace treaty with Israel at risk.
The U.S. provides modest assistance to Thailand to fund anti-terrorism, narcotics and human trafficking programs.