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Military coup gets Thailand booted from RIMPAC lineup

By William Cole

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 07:39 p.m. HST, Jun 25, 2014


Thailand is being refused participation in the big U.S. Rim of the Pacific maritime exercise following a May 22 military coup, the suspension of more than $4.7 million in U.S. security-related assistance, and cancellation of a military exercise and visits with the Southeast Asian nation, U.S. defense officials said.

"Thailand will not be here for RIMPAC, and that was a decision that was made by (the State Department)," U.S. Pacific Command said Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, Scot Marciel, principal deputy assistant secretary of the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the coup and "post-coup repression" have "made it impossible for our relationship with Thailand to go on with 'business as usual.' "

Marciel also suggested the United States might move the big Cobra Gold military drills, the world's largest multilateral exercise, out of Thailand in 2015, Agence France-Presse reported.

Thailand was not sending any ships to RIMPAC; rather, it planned to have "component staff personnel" present. How many personnel Thailand was sending was not immediately clear.

Thailand's absence means 22 nations will participate in RIMPAC instead of the 23 that had been advertised until Wednesday. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC is held every other year in Hawaii's waters.

The $4.7 million cut in assistance affects programs including international military education and training, which the United States provides to allies.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement May 24: "As we have made clear, it is important that the Royal Thai Armed Forces end this coup and restore to the people of Thailand both the principles and the process of democratic rule, including a clear path forward to elections."

Kirby noted that while the United States has "enjoyed a long and productive military-to-military relationship with Thailand, our own democratic principles and U.S. law require us to reconsider U.S. military assistance and engagements."

As a result, a visit planned this month to Thailand by Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of U.S. Pacific Fleet, was cancelled.

The exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2014 was stopped, and an invitation was rescinded for Gen. Tanasak Patimapragorn, chief of Thailand's defense forces, to visit U.S. Pacific Command.

Marciel told the House committee on foreign affairs subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Tuesday that last year, the United States commemorated 180 years of friendly relations with Thailand, which is one of five U.S. treaty allies in Asia.

The United States has consistently criticized the military coup and called for the restoration of civilian rule, but recent events "have shown that the current military coup is both more repressive and likely to last longer" than one in 2006, Marciel said.

Marciel said the hope is that the "strong international message" sent by the U.S.-Thai aid and military exchange cancellations, along with pressure from within Thailand, "will lead to an easing of repression and an early return to democracy."   






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