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U.S. cancels visit by Hawaii admiral to Thailand

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    Anti-coup protesters hold banners and walk during a demonstration on a street in Bangkok Saturday.

A visit by the Hawaii-based commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet to Thailand has been canceled as the U.S. reacted to a Thai military coup.

“While we have 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,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Saturday

Officials said about 700 sailors and Marines were participating in the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise when it was cut short. The annual exercise, which started Tuesday, was scheduled to run through May 28 as the first of nine bilateral exercises the Navy conducts with maritime forces in Southeast Asia.

The Pentagon also announced that it was canceling a visit to Thailand by Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. In addition, the Defense Department rescinded an invitation for a senior Thai commander to visit the military’s Pacific Command in Hawaii next month.

“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 said in a statement.

The State Department issued a warning to U.S. citizens to “reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand.”

The State Department said it also scrubbed a U.S.-sponsored firearms training program in Thailand for the Royal Thai Police that was to begin Monday. Also canceled was a U.S.-sponsored study trip to the United States, scheduled for June, for some Royal Thai Police officers. The agenda included visits to FBI facilities and meetings with U.S. law enforcement officials.

On Saturday, a State Department official said the U.S. was increasingly concerned about actions of the Thailand military in the days since the coup.

“It has dissolved the Senate, detained a number of people, called in some academics and journalists, and continued to restrict the press,” deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “We again call on the military to release those detained for political reasons, end restrictions on the media, and move to restore civilian rule and democracy through elections.”

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