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U.S. Cancels Joint Exercises With Thailand

Protesters shout slogans during an anti-coup rally on Saturday in Bangkok, Thailand.
Rufus Cox
Getty Images
Protesters shout slogans during an anti-coup rally on Saturday in Bangkok, Thailand.

The United States continues to distance itself from Thailand in the wake of its military coup.

On Saturday, the Pentagon announced it had canceled training and military exercises with the country and said it was putting off a visit by U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris.

Right after, the State Department announced it was canceling a firearms training program in Thailand for the Royal Thai Police. This comes after the U.S. suspended foreign assistance for the country.

"We urge the immediate restoration of civilian rule and release of detained political leaders, a return to democracy through early elections, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms," State spokesperson Marie Harf said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Thailand, the military junta now ruling the country continued its crackdown on the opposition. The BBC reports that they ordered 35 more people, including prominent academics, to report to them on Saturday.

Fox News reports that the coup leaders said they were already keeping other political leaders — including Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra — in detention to give them "time to think."

Fox adds:

"Deputy army spokesman Col. Weerachon Sukondhapatipak said that all the detained politicians were being well-treated and that the aim of the military was to achieve a political compromise.

"'This is in a bid for everybody who is involved in the conflict to calm down and have time to think,' Weerachon said. 'We don't intend to limit their freedom but it is to relieve the pressure.'"

If you remember, the military declared martial law on Monday after months of protests roiled the country. Later in the week, the military declared a formal coup.

Scott explained:

"Coups are nothing new to Thailand. The last one took place in 2006 and removed Yingluck's brother, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, from office. Since the end of the absolute monarchy in the country in 1932, the military has staged 11 successful coups.

"The opposition had openly invited the military to stage another coup to remove Yingluck, a request that was rebuffed until December, when the army chief in an interview declined to rule out the possibility."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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