US cancels military exercises with Thailand

Joint military and police training exercises cancelled, as protests continue in Bangkok over military coup.

The United States has cancelled a joint military training exercise with Thailand, visits by top military officers and a police training programme over the country’s military coup.

The steps, announced by the US Departments of State and Defense on Saturday, are intended to show Washington’s disapproval of the events in Thailand, whose army chief seized control of the government on Thursday, two days after declaring martial law.

The Pentagon said in a statement it had called off its annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise with Thailand, part of a series of events between the US Navy and eight regional navies to help them work together.

It also said it had cancelled a planned June visit to Thailand by US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris
and cancelled an invitation to the Royal Thai Armed Forces commander general to visit the US Pacific Command next month.

The Pentagon said it “will continue to review additional engagements as necessary until such time that events in Thailand no longer demand it,” in a possible reference to the annual “Cobra Gold” Thai-US co-sponsored joint and multinational exercise usually held in January or February.

The State Department, which typically oversees US law enforcement cooperation abroad, said it cancelled a police firearms training program scheduled to begin on Monday and a visit by senior Thai police officers to the United States.

Protests continue

Meanwhile, also on Saturday, scuffles broke out between anti-coup protesters and police officers on the streets of Bangkok.

Around 500 protesters defied a ban imposed by Thailand’s ruling military on large gatherings for a second consecutive day.

The protesters briefly confronted rows of soldiers and police who were lined up with riot shields on a road leading to the city’s Victory Monument, with a few scuffles breaking out before most of the protesters broke away.

They were later seen streaming onto the city’s Skytrain elevated transit system, apparently riding over police lines to the monument.

Thailand’s coup leaders on Saturday had announced the dissolution of the country’s Senate, with the military assuming all executive power in the country.

Saturday’s announcement, which was broadcast on television, stripped away the last democratic institution in the country two days after the military seized power.

Speaking from Bangkok, Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa said the suspension of the Senate showed that the hawks within the military government were in the ascendancy over the doves.

“The nature of military rule is likely to be stricter as a result,” she said.

The military says it took power to prevent more political turmoil in Thailand, where supporters of the elected populist government have been pitted against establishment-backed protesters who accuse the deposed government of corruption.

Thursday coup was the 12th in eight decades.

Source: News Agencies