At this critical juncture in Thai history, lifting the sanctions against Thailand under Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act would send a clear message to the Thai military government: We endorse human rights abuses, we endorse media censorship, we endorse the theft of American intellectual property and we endorse the overthrow of freely elected democratic governments.
The military-installed government of Thailand can offer excuses and explanations. Its Embassy in Washington can publish colorful booklets and distribute optimistic talking points to members of Congress. But one fact remains–the government is illegitimate, having overthrown a freely elected democracy.
Rather than debating the application of 508 sanctions, we should be having a discussion on Thailand’s continued designation as a major non-NATO ally of the United States–a status that gives Thailand a range of benefits, including preferred American lending, participation in military exercises and preferential bidding on Department of Defense contracts.
– Extract from the testimony of Congressman Mark Steven Kirk, to the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment, 1 August 2007. The full text of the Congressman’s statement is available here. Thanks to Nick for drawing New Mandala‘s attention to these comments.
Update (4 August): It has come to my attention that Abbott Laboratories is reportedly the largest employer in Congressman Kirk’s district. New Mandala readers may remember Abbott from earlier in the year when the storm over Thailand’s compulsory license for a HIV/AIDS drug broke.