Published on August 23, 2007
"We have urged the Thai government to lift martial law," Marciel said without elaborating during a meeting yesterday with the local press.
Marciel, who was appointed two weeks ago and is responsible for US relations with Southeast Asia, refused to say what the US government's stance would be if junta leader General Sonthi Boon-yaratglin enters electoral politics and becomes prime minister.
"It's kind of hard to answer that hypothetical question ... we would hope the election will allow candidates the right to compete," he said, only to continue the conversation on the topic "off the record".
Thirty minutes later, Marciel read a statement written down by his female political aide as a second response to the question of Sonthi running for office, and said: "It's up to the Thai people to decide and I can't comment on any candidacy."
Marciel, who is on a two-day visit to Bangkok, will meet with various groups, including politicians, academics, non-governmental organisation workers and senior officials at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
He said the focus was now on the process that will lead to the election.
"We're not going to take sides on who should be elected in a democratic system ... the people in Thailand favour democracy and a return to democracy ... we think it's important for Thailand to return to democracy."
But what kind of democracy, asked a female newspaper reporter. "A system where people choose their leaders," Marciel responded.
On the issue of US relations with Southeast Asia and Asean, Marciel, who joined the State Department in 1985 and has served in Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Brazil and Turkey, said the level of US engagement to the region was "very good". Last year, he said, trade between the US and Asean totalled US$168 billion (Bt5.76 trillion), and that ties with the region would be strengthened.
On the growing influence of China, Marciel said: "More broadly, we don't see China's growing economic role as creating a zero-sum situation."
As for the continued repression in Burma, he said: "It's up to the Burmese government to take some positive steps."
Meanwhile, the violence in the deep South of Thailand "remains" a concern for the US government, he said, adding that it was however an internal matter for the Kingdom.
Marciel insisted that terrorists in Southeast Asia did not enjoy significant public support.