Thailand, US Start Drills

Thailand, US Start DrillsThailand, US Start Drills

The largest multinational military exercise in the Asia-Pacific, Cobra Gold, was set in motion in Thailand on Monday, despite Washington having scaled down its participation after the 2014 coup.

The United States said on Monday its relationship with longtime ally Thailand was going through a “challenging” period as the two sides began a major military exercise.

“We can’t deny that this period is a challenging one and has necessitated a modified Cobra Gold as Thailand manages its return to democracy,” US charge d’affaires Patrick Murphy told the Cobra Gold opening ceremony in east of Bangkok, World Bulletin reported.

The Thai army took control last May saying it needed to restore order after months of political unrest that killed nearly 30 people. The US responded by freezing $4.7 million of security-related aid and cancelling some security cooperation.

Comments by a visiting US envoy last month, including that Thailand immediately lift martial law which has been in place since May, further strained ties. Senior Thai ministers responded by telling US not to meddle in Thailand’s political affairs.

Last week Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief, said a general election would take place in 2016 but stopped short of giving a specific date. His military government has said martial law will remain in place indefinitely.