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11 June 2009

Clinton to visit Thailand in July

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United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Thailand next month as part of a US drive to encourage stability in its longstanding ally, AFP quoted her nominee as top diplomat for Asia as saying Wednesday.

Kurt Campbell, in his confirmation hearing to be assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said Mrs Clinton was planning a visit to Thailand “later in July.” He did not give further details on the trip. Reports in India, which would not fall under Campbell's brief, also say Mrs Clinton is expected next month.

Campbell said Thailand was facing “very real challenges” as seen in an attack on Monday on a mosque in the kingdom's restive Muslim-dominated south that left 11 people dead.

He also predicted more political turbulence in Thailand, which has been through four prime ministers since a 2006 military coup ousted populist tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra.

Campbell, an academic and former naval officer, said the United States was trying to urge dialogue among political groups in Thailand to encourage stability but believed it should do so privately.

“To be more open and more public right now could very well backfire. We might find ourselves in a situation where you're promoting things that could play very badly, not just among the elite in Thai society but elsewhere,” he said.

“We have a very strong relationship with Thailand and would like that to get stronger,” he said.

Thailand is the oldest US ally in Asia, with the kingdom then known as Siam famously offering elephants to President Abraham Lincoln as he waged the 1861-1865 Civil War.

Thailand has also supported the United States in more recent conflicts including the Vietnam War and the second Iraq war which ousted Saddam Hussein.


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