In this Feb 24, 2017 photo, Thai and US military tanks participate in a live fire military display in Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand, the last day of the 10-day multi-nation Cobra Gold military exercise. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP)
BANGKOK – The biggest US force in years joined an annual military exercise in Thailand on Tuesday.
This exercise is the largest multilateral exercise in the Indo-Pacific region. It speaks to the commitment of the US in the region.
Steve Castonguay, Spokesman, US Embassy in Bangkok
The United States scaled back attendance at Cobra Gold, Asia's largest multilateral military exercise, after a 2014 coup in Thailand. But relations between the junta and the US have improved under President Donald Trump.
The presence of the 6,800 US personnel is nearly double last year's number.
The Cobra Gold military exercise has been held for more than three decades. This year's exercise will be attended by some 11,075 personnel from 29 countries.
"This exercise is the largest multilateral exercise in the Indo-Pacific region. It speaks to the commitment of the US in the region," Steve Castonguay, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok, told Reuters.
Castonguay confirmed an army major from Myanmar was attending the opening ceremony but that Myanmar would not participate in any military drills.
The United States has pushed for the restoration of democracy in Thailand, its oldest ally in the region.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had promised an election would take place in November this year, but the junta last month said it could be delayed until February 2019 – which would be the latest of several postponements.