US cancels ongoing military exercises with Thailand

BY Associated Press  May 24, 2014 at 4:08 PM EST
Thai soldiers stand guard after army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders at the Army Club in Bangkok Thursday. Photo by Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

Thai soldiers stand guard after army chief General Prayut Chan-O-Cha met with anti-government and pro-government leaders at the Army Club in Bangkok on Thursday. On Saturday, the Defense Department announced the U.S. would cancel ongoing military exercises with Thailand. Credit: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced Saturday it had canceled ongoing military exercises with Thailand as a result of the military coup in the Southeast Asian country.

“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,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

There were 700 U.S. troops participating in the annual naval exercises, which include sailors, marines, ships and aircraft.

Kirby said the Pentagon also was canceling the June visit of U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris to Thailand and is withdrawing the invitation to the commander general of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to visit U.S. Pacific Command in June.

He said the U.S. urged Thailand’s armed forces “to act in the best interests of their fellow citizens by ending this coup and restoring the rule of law and the freedoms assured those citizens through democratic principles.”

The State Department said it 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. government-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.