BANGKOK – Thailand called on the United States on Wednesday to reconsider moving the Cobra Gold military exercise from the military-ruled country.
Col. Virachon Sukonthapatipak, spokesman of the National Council for Peace and Order, the official name of the Thai military junta which staged last month’s coup to oust an elected government, told military attaches from 15 countries during a briefing at the army headquarters that the U.S. government should seriously review any plan to relocate the multinational military exercise supposedly in protest of military rule in Thailand.
The Thai colonel’s comments immediately followed news reports that the U.S. government was considering moving next year’s Cobra Gold exercise out of Thailand following the May 22 coup which already prompted Washington to cut 4.7 million U.S. dollars in annual military aid to the Southeast Asian country.
“The United States is strongly suggested to reconsider any plan to relocate the Cobra Gold exercise and to separate internal political affairs from regional security matters.
“Regional security does not only involve Thailand but several other countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region including the United States.
“Internal politics could possibly raise temporary concerns while regional security should be considered a lasting, significant issue,” he said.
The military attaches who attended Wednesday’s briefing for a second time since army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha staged the bloodless coup included those from the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Thailand and the United States have jointly conducted the Cobra Gold, the largest military exercise in the Asia-Pacific region, since 1982. The annual exercise has been participated by military forces of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea.
Several other countries have sent observers including China, Russia, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, South Africa and New Zealand.
Col. Virachon said those military attaches had largely understood the current military rule and been reassured of the National Council for Peace and Order’s roadmap to return democratic rule to the Thai people within next year.
The Cambodian military attache had also agreed to help with an ongoing effort to bring migrant workers back to Thailand after they had scrambled out across the Thai-Cambodian border in the face of groundless rumors of a sweeping crackdown on illegal laborers,he added.
An estimated 220,000 Cambodian migrant workers, mostly employed at construction sites and manufacturing factories, had returned home for fears of being arrested earlier this month but many have begun to come back to Thailand.
Meanwhile, the ruling military has called on the international community to look out for those Thai dissidents for whom arrest warrants have already been issued, including Charupong Ruangsuwan, a member of the previous Yingluck Shinawatra cabinet and former leader of the previous ruling Pheu Thai (for Thais) Party.
Charupong, believed to have fled to Cambodia shortly after the Thai military staged the coup, set up the so-called Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy,the whereabouts of which remains a mystery.
He also fell short of saying how his organization would practically fight against military rule in Thailand.
Cambodian authorities had categorically dismissed allegation that they had provided shelter or assistance to the former Thai interior minister.