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U.S. cancels military exercise, visits after Thai coup

Source: Reuters - Sat, 24 May 2014 22:38 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds further State Department comment, last two paragraphs)

WASHINGTON, May 24 (Reuters) - The United States on Saturday canceled a military training exercise with Thailand, visits by top military officers and a police training program because of the country's military coup.

The steps, announced by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, are intended to show Washington's displeasure with 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, or CARAT, exercise with Thailand, part of a series of events between the U.S. Navy and eight regional navies to help them work together.

It also said it had called off a planned June visit to Thailand by U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris and canceled an invitation to the Royal Thai Armed Forces commander general to visit the U.S. 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," a possible reference to the annual "Cobra Gold" Thai-U.S. co-sponsored joint and multinational exercise.

Cobra Gold, which in recent years has taken place in January or February, is a major exercise designed to ensure regional peace and to strengthen the ability of the Thai armed forces to defend Thailand and deal with other regional threats.

Separately, the State Department, which typically oversees U.S. law enforcement cooperation abroad, said it canceled a police firearms training program in Thailand and a visit by senior Thai police officers to the United States.

The firearms training program had been scheduled to begin on Monday and the visit by Thai police officers, which was to have included visits to FBI facilities, had been set to take place in June.

"We are increasingly concerned about actions the military has taken, just a few days after it staged a coup," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. "It has dissolved the Senate, detained a number of people, called in some academics and journalists, and continued to restrict the press."

She added: "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." (Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Frances Kerry, Steve Orlofsky and Peter Cooney)

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