Peace and Freedom
February 19, 2007
In a major show of support for the Thai government, the United States has decided to proceed with the largest annual joint Thai-US military exercise, "Cobra Gold."
Military analysts and observers were worried that since the bloodless military coup in Thailand last September 19, that removed the democratically elected government of Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra, the United States would cancel the exercise.
At the time of the coup, the United States condemned the coup leaders as persons not respectful of democracy.
The coup prompted the US to suspend 24 million dollars in military aid to Thailand.
The US decision to proceed with the exercise is seen in Thailand as a sort of validation that the Thai government has demonstrated that it is on the right track back to democracy.
Thai government officials of Thailand have repeatedly said that they fully intend to return to democracy. Just recently, they lifted martial law at forst imposed during the coup upon most of the country.
Thailand continues to be troubled by an ugly Muslim separtist revolt in its southern provinces. Seven were killed in the south during Lunar New Year celebrations in southern Thailand this last week end.
The Cobra Gold military exercises will take place from May 8-18 in eastern Thailand, said Chanchaiyan Srisuwan, the Thai army's chief of joint operations.
"The Cobra Gold exercises have been in the works the entire time" since the coup, Chanchaiyan said.
There heave been virtually no diplomatic exchanges between Thailand and the United States since the coup. But in the interim, China has made inroads into the relationship between the US and China.
China opened a more lively discussion of military matters with Thailand after the coup and the apparent US cut-off. Senior officials from Thailand visited China and China reciprocated. China also offered Thailand $49 million worth of military aid and training.Now the us has apparently decided that Thailand is not an ally it is willing to lose.
"Look, they fully intend to return to democracy," a senior US diplomat told us of Thailand. "Cobra Gold is good for both parties. The relationship between the US and Thailand is many decades old. We'll resolve any wrinkles we have. Just wait."
Wantanee in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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