US embassy snubs top brass with no invite for July 4

 The US embassy in Bangkok did not extend an invitation to any members of Thailand's junta, including leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha (above). -- PHOTO: REUTERS
 The US embassy in Bangkok did not extend an invitation to any members of Thailand's junta, including leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha (above). -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It is very hard for the United States to regard the military coup in Thailand as business as usual.

The US embassy in Bangkok has not extended an invitation to any key member of the junta to attend its Independence Day celebration this week.

Washington has discouraged formal associations or celebrations with Thai military officers who were directly involved in the military coup on May 22 to topple the elected government, according to a diplomatic source.

The US embassy has organised a reception on Thursday at a Bangkok hotel to celebrate Independence Day.

It usually extends invitations to senior officials in government agencies, high society figures and the diplomatic community.

People started receiving the invitations last week but junta leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha and his four deputies did not get one.

The ruling National Council for Peace and Order's spokesman Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak confirmed that the US embassy did not invite any senior military officers.

However, many military with the rank of colonel were invited, a source said.

An army colonel said he got the invitation as usual but he and many colleagues were considering not going.

Many of them had decided not to join the celebration, he said.

"They want the US to realise that we have feeling towards what it has expressed towards us," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The US had consistently expressed its stance against military intervention in the political crisis before the coup.

Washington cut its US$4.7 million (S$5.87 million) in military assistance to Thailand and cancelled many activities and joint exercises in response to the power seizure.

Other Western countries also took a tough stance against the junta.

The British embassy cancelled a reception to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's birthday at a Bangkok hotel on June 11 to reflect its opposition to the coup.

Meanwhile, a poll showed that junta chief Prayuth is the leading people's choice for the next prime minister.

The general was supported by 32 per cent of the 2,087 people in 15 provinces who responded to the survey conducted by the Thai Researchers in Community Happiness Association from last Monday to Saturday.

Assoc Prof Chet Ratchadaphnnathikul said yesterday that Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva came second as the people's choice of the next premier with 13.9 per cent of the votes.

Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, came third with 8.4 per cent and the Democrat chief adviser Chuan Leekpai was fourth with 8 per cent.

Some 6.9 per cent said they would prefer former PM Yingluck Shinawatra to return.