WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. this week holds its first formal strategic dialogue with ally Thailand since a military coup.

The top U.S. east Asia envoy, Daniel Russel, is hoping for better news coverage than on his last visit to Thailand a year ago, when local media branded him an “ugly American” for public criticism of curbs on democracy.

Wednesday’s talks in Bangkok are part of a broader Obama administration effort to build U.S. ties in southeast Asia and counter China’s rise. But the underlying problems remain. The Thai military, which seized power in May 2014, keeps delaying a return to civilian rule, and Washington keeps falling afoul of Thailand’s hyper-sensitive politics.

Police recently took up a complaint brought by hardline royalists who accused the U.S. ambassador to Thailand of defaming the monarchy.

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