THAILAND - Thailand, which is now ruled by a military government after a bloodless coup, is not retreating from democracy, a top Thai official said yesterday.
Mr Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand's Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, told reporters on the sidelines of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue that his country was undergoing political reforms before holding elections, and hoped to seek the understanding of its strategic and economic partners.
The veteran diplomat was responding to criticisms by United States Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, who last Saturday said that Washington would respond "when nations retreat from democracy, as in Thailand".
Thailand is the US' oldest ally in Asia and the two countries' militaries enjoy close ties.
But the May 22 coup in Thailand prompted the US to suspend US$3.5 million (S$4.4 million) in military assistance, as well as to review the remainder of American aid to the South-east Asian country.
The Pentagon also cancelled a major military exercise and high-level exchanges with its Thai counterpart that were planned earlier.