Myanmar invited to US-Thai military drills
The Myanmar military, which has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority, has been invited back as an observer in a major multinational military exercise next year led by the United States and Thailand.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters that Thailand had invited Myanmar to take part in the annual Cobra Gold exercise, which involves thousands of US and Thai military personnel and participants from other Asian countries.
Myanmar had been invited to observe the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief portion of the exercise, Logan said.
A senior officer at the Directorate of Joint Intelligence of the Royal Thai Armed Forces told Reuters it was unclear whether Myanmar had accepted the invitation but Thailand was eager for them to join.
Asked why Thailand decided to invite Myanmar despite concerns over the crackdown against the Rohingya and whether this issue was part of their deliberations, the official said: "That never came up in the discussions. We separated that issue (the Rohingya). We focus on training, on education, on military cooperation. That is our wish, to have Myanmar involved."
"That is politics. We are soldiers. This is a military exercise," added the official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.