Thailand and America downplay the meaning of the presence of Myanmar military personnel in the grand opening of the largest annual joint military exercise in Southeast Asia on Tuesday (13/2).
The Myanmar military has been accused of massive human rights abuses by crackdown on minorities Muslim-Rohingya, which made hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to Bangladesh. Some members of the US Congress have demanded that Myanmar not be included in the exercise.
"The truth is Myanmar is not a participating country," US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies told reporters during a "Gold Cobra" exercise in eastern Thailand.
"They are not participants of this exercise," he asserted. He did not explain why Myanmar military personnel were present in the drill.
Thai military commander General Thanchaiyan Srisuwan admitted inviting Myanmar in the opening ceremony of the exercises. But the Myanmar flag was not flown.
The Pentagon and the US State Department last week said Thailand had invited three Myanmar military personnel to observe a part of the exercise focused on responding to natural disasters. But Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan said on Tuesday that the only Myanmar military personnel present were deputy military attachés, who were also a major. The personnel attended the opening ceremony with another defense attaché corps in Bangkok. [em/jm]