The United States yesterday urged Thailand's military coup leaders to lift martial law within seven to 10 days and to bring forward elections the generals have promised for late next year.
"A year seems like a very long time," said a U.S. embassy official in Bangkok, speaking on condition of anonymity. The diplomat added that "if martial law is not lifted in a week to 10 days, that would be a problem."
The junta that ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra on September 19 installed retired General Surayud Chulanont last weekend as interim prime minister until polls they have promised for October 2007.
The White House had called Tuesday for "a quick return" to democracy in Thailand and warned its new military leaders that Washington was weighing action beyond U.S. sanctions imposed last week.
Spokeswoman Dana Perino said Thailand's relations with the United States and its global image would suffer until it returns to democratic rule.
"We call for clear and unambiguous protection for civil liberties by the interim authorities and the military, and a quick return to democratic elections," she said as US President George W. Bush visited California.
"Thailand's image in the eyes of the world and U.S.-Thai relations will suffer until Thailand returns to its place as a democratic leader in Asia," she said.