Asia Minute: Head of Thailand’s Military Government Hosted at White House

Oct 4, 2017

Prayuth Chan-o-cha
Credit Wikimedia Commons

As you’ve been hearing on NPR today, President Trump traveled to Las Vegas today—a day after going to Puerto Rico. His visits to those two places of recent human tragedy have dominated the news this week. But another presidential event that received very little attention was historic in a different way. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

For the first time in a dozen years, the Prime Minister of Thailand has paid an official visit to the White House.

The Obama Administration had refused high-level government contact since a military coup in 2014 overthrew Thailand’s democratically elected government.

At that point, Prayuth Chan-o-cha was the head of the army that seized power.

Today he’s the prime minister.

Human Rights Watch says more than 1,400 civilians in Thailand are currently awaiting trial in military courts for violating the junta’s restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.

Gatherings of more than five people are not legal in the country, neither are street protests.

On Monday, President Trump focused not on human rights, but on business. Telling the Thai Prime Minister “Our relationship on trade is becoming more important and it’s a great country to trade with.” Despite the fact that the U.S. Trade Representative puts the U.S. trade deficit with Thailand at roughly 19-billion dollars.

The Asia Director of Humans Rights Watch says the meeting with the Prime Minister is the latest sign the White House has “shamelessly thrown human rights considerations out the window.”

The group’s Asia Advocacy Director says the “ugly political realities of the visit” are “that Thailand is ruled by a military junta and the Trump Administration doesn’t care.”