Today, US and Thai military personnel will jointly host the annual Cobra-Gold military exercises throughout Thailand for over 30 participating militaries. The event comes as strained US-Thai relations begin to reset.
High level contact between the two militaries resumed only earlier this month, after the Obama administration cut off contact following Thailand’s 2014 military coup. The Trump administraton has worked towards repairing relations.
Although US participation had never been cancelled post-coup, the American commitment was downgraded. For example, the US sent only 3,000 troops to the 2017 exercises, the last organised by the previous administration. This year, however, will see 6,800 personnel sent in the largest muster since the coup.
These efforts point to Trump’s more pragmatic view towards the region. Although the Thai junta has once again delayed elections—this time to 2019—Washington will not push the issue. Expect the US to continue prioritising Thailand’s value as a bulwark against growing Chinese influence in Myanmar and Cambodia over addressing the authoritarian nature of the regime.
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John is a Senior Analyst with an interest in Indo-Pacific geopolitics. Master of International Relations (Australian National University) graduate with study focus on the Indo-Pacific. Qualified lawyer (University of Auckland, NZ) with experience in post-colonial Pacific & NZ legal systems.