U.S. military monitoring developments after Thailand coup
Military officials in the Pacific had a muted reaction Wednesday to the news of a bloodless coup the previous night in Thailand.
Officials at Pacific Command — which conducts several exercises in Thailand each year — say they are carefully monitoring developments but not reacting.
Officials said what, if any, effect the changes in Thai government leadership might have on future exercises remains to be seen.
“I think this is far too soon for our people to tell,” PACOM spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jason Salata said.
Air Force Maj. T. David Smith, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that there are “fewer than 100 U.S. military” in Thailand, including a Joint U.S. military assistance group stationed in Bangkok with about 30 people.
In addition, a few personnel from the Pacific Fleet help coordinate ship visits and act as liaisons for other U.S. Navy business, and a group of about 40 Marines from Marine Forces Pacific who are on temporary assignment, “doing some sort of low-key, small-scale computer simulation exercise” in Sattahip, Smith said.
Pentagon officials have told all U.S. military personnel “to stay in their homes unless otherwise directed to go to work; to basically sit tight while we’re monitoring the situation,” Smith told Stripes. “At this point, all we can do is wait and see what happens.”
PACOM conducts about 40 exercises each year in the country, one of the strongest and oldest U.S. military allies in the region, according to the Joint Military Assistance Group-Thailand, which coordinates visits. Also, about 1,000 U.S. servicemembers go to Thailand each year on temporary orders through JUSMAG.
Salata said there are no servicemembers currently in Thailand for a PACOM exercise. However, he said, about 100 servicemembers typically are assigned to the JUSMAG. The situation in Thailand has not altered their status.
“This hasn’t signaled any significant changes to our force protection position there,” he said.
In Japan, U.S. military officials also are monitoring the situation and working with the embassy in Tokyo for updates, said U.S. Forces Japan spokesman Capt. Jason Medina.
No travel restrictions have been imposed, but USFJ is alerting servicemembers should they want to change plans for travel to Thailand.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok also has not issued restrictions or recommended evacuations, according to a statement on the Embassy’s Web site. But the Web site advises Americans in the country to be discreet and avoid large gatherings.
Stars and Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess contributed to this report from the Pentagon.