Regional security, Myanmar top Prayut, US defence chief meeting

America's Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin made a three-day visit to Thailand.

The Nation

The Nation



June 15, 2022

BANGKOK – The United States secretary of defence was in Thailand on a three-day visit to discuss military cooperation and exchange views on security issues in the region.

At a meeting on Monday, both Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also doubles as defence chief, and US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin III agreed on full cooperation in military and security aspects to cement the long-standing Thai-US bilateral ties.

“The two defence chiefs also exchanged views on the security situation in Southeast Asia, including the South China Sea and Myanmar,” Defence Ministry spokesman General Kongcheep Tantrawanit said on Monday evening.

“Prayut said to his US counterpart that Thailand has always adhered to international laws and principles of humanity to handle conflicts that occur in Thailand’s vicinity as well as their impacts, including providing shelter and aid to Myanmar refugees fleeing war in their country.

“The United States has promised to promote and support the modernisation of Thai military with joint training, provision of military equipment and development of the defence industry, especially in areas of cyber security and aerospace,” he added. “In 2023, the US and Thailand will resume the ‘Cobra Gold’ joint military exercises at full scale once the Covid-19 situation is resolved. Cyber security and aerospace will also be added to the programme.”

Before arriving in Thailand on Sunday, Austin had attended the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an inter-governmental security conference held annually by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

At this year’s dialogue, which brought together defence ministers and military chiefs of mostly Asia-Pacific countries, Chinese defence chief Wei Fenghe said China will fight to the very end against Taiwan’s independence.

This declaration has led to concern among several parties in Thailand, notably former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, who fears the meeting between Prayut and Austin will indicate that Thailand is siding with the US in case China launches war in the region.

Jatuporn reportedly submitted a letter voicing his concerns to the Defence Ministry, but Kongcheep did not elaborate on the subject at the press event on Monday. He only thanked Jatuporn for his concerns and thanked the group camping outside the military headquarters to monitor the meeting for obeying the law.

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