US pulls out from military exercises in Thailand

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon has canceled ongoing military exercises with Thailand and an upcoming visit by a top Navy official as a result of the military coup in the Southeast Asian country.

"While we have enjoyed a long and productive military-to-military relationship with Thailand, our own democratic principles and U.S. law require us to reconsider U.S. military assistance and engagements," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Saturday.

About 700 U.S. troops were participating in the annual naval exercises, which include sailors, marines, ships and aircraft. Kirby said the Pentagon was canceling the June visit of U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Harry Harris to Thailand and is withdrawing the invitation to the commander general of the Royal Thai Armed Forces to visit U.S. Pacific Command in June.

The U.S. urged Thailand's armed forces "to act in the best interests of their fellow citizens by ending this coup and restoring the rule of law and the freedoms assured those citizens through democratic principles," Kirby said.

The State Department said it scrubbed a U.S.-sponsored firearms training program in Thailand for the Royal Thai Police that was to begin Monday. Also canceled was a U.S.-sponsored study trip to the United States, scheduled for June, for some Royal Thai Police officers. The agenda included visits to FBI facilities and meetings with U.S. law enforcement officials.

On Saturday, a State Department official said the U.S. was increasingly concerned about actions of the Thailand military in the days since the coup. "It has dissolved the Senate, detained a number of people, called in some academics and journalists, and continued to restrict the press," deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. "We again call on the military to release those detained for political reasons, end restrictions on the media, and move to restore civilian rule and democracy through elections."

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