Cobra Gold kicks off, Thailand denies Myanmar excluded over coup

This year’s exercises, led by Thailand and the US, are focused on humanitarian training drills.

The Nation

The Nation



The Cobra Gold annual wargames led by Thailand and the US kicked off on a reduced scale on Sunday, with the Thai Defence Ministry insisting Myanmar’s exclusion was unrelated to its crisis following last year’s military coup.

February 21, 2022

BANGKOK – This year’s exercises are focused on humanitarian training drills.

“Cobra Gold”, which was launched in 1982, is the world’s longest-running multinational military exercise and serves as a platform for the US to forge alliances in Asia at a time of increasing competition with China.

Military personnel from China, India, Indonesia, South Korea and Australia are also taking part in this year’s exercise.

They will joined by 2,000 Thai and 1,200 American troops in field and humanitarian assistance drills until March 5 this year.

This year, the exercises will not feature the usual live-fire drills, amphibious landings and evacuation operations. Also absent, according to officials, will be the iconic cobra-blood drinking ritual that gives the wargames their name.

The last Cobra Gold before the Covid-19 crisis saw about 4,500 American soldiers participate in the exercise. That number fell to 106 in 2020 and 600 last year as the pandemic took its toll.

Despite the reduced scale again this year, the exercise will be an essential mechanism for strengthening military cooperation, said Defence Ministry spokesman Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich.

He said the exclusion of Myanmar, previously a Cobra Gold observer, for a second consecutive year was not related to the crisis in the country since last year’s February 1 military coup.

The US and other Western powers have condemned Myanmar’s military, also known as the Tatmadaw, for ousting Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s elected government and perpetrating atrocities against civilians. However, the Thai and Myanmar militaries have historically enjoyed strong ties.

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