In declaring martial law last week, Thailand’s army chief, Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, implicitly asked the Thai people and their friends abroad, especially in the United States, to give him the benefit of the doubt. His move was not an outright military takeover, but rather an attempt to broker peace between the quarreling political factions that have brought violence to the streets and nearly paralyzed the Thai government and economy for the past six months. Certainly the Obama administration was willing to suspend judgment on the general’s intentions, or so it seemed from Washington’s reluctance to brand his declaration a coup, which would trigger mandatory sanctions under U.S. law.

On Thursday, however, Prayuth forfeited whatever claim to forbearance he might have had. He ended a meeting of political leaders after little more than an hour, pronounced himself in charge of the country, detained officials of the elected government and shut down independent media.

To his credit, Secretary of State John Kerry called the coup by its true name Thursday, adding, in a written statement, that officials are “reviewing our military and other assistance and engagements, consistent with U.S. law.”

This is an improvement over the administration’s glaring failure to call out Egypt’s military coup. Kerry stopped short of cutting off aid to Thailand, as U.S. law prescribes. Fair enough: It took nine days for the Bush administration to suspend $24 million in aid after a similar event in 2006; but that precedent suggests a maximum grace period this time, not a minimum.