When M41 tanks rolled into the streets of Bangkok in September 19 2006, it was Thailand’s the first military coup in fifteen years and the first in the new millennia. The coup overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, whom was at that time in New York attending United Nations General Assembly. Countries across the globe condemned the act; although ally United States quoted they were “disappointed “ in the coup.
United State’s Foreign Assistance Act passed in 1961 dictates that the US must cut any aid or “any assistance to any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by a military coup or decree.” The US halted military aid to the Kingdom, although continued supplying funds for healthcare, counter terrorism and law enforcement. However, the world’s largest combined military exercise, Exercise Cobra Gold, went ahead in the first quarter of the following year. On the sea, the Combine Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) went ahead with the Royal Thai Navy without a hitch.
Thailand was labelled by former US president George W Bush as a major non-NATO ally, but fast forward to 2014, the Thai military seized power after a turbulent election process. The American responses were quick and more severe than the previous coup. On top of the cut back funds, visit by Commander US Pacific Fleet Admiral Harry Harris, and CARAT Thailand 14 were cancelled. Thai observers were also uninvited to the RIMPAC 2014 exercise in September.
In danger of the axe was the crown jewel of all US-Thai military exercise, Cobra Gold.
. It was in October 2014 that outgoing US ambassador to Bangkok revealed that Cobra Gold would resume in 2015, saying, “Thailand remains an important partner and friend to the US.” However, Cobra Gold 15 will be scaled down and the military aid sanctions remains. Like eight years ago, the 2006 coup happened after Cobra Gold in February, but Cobra Gold 2007 went ahead as usual.
Business is still as usual between the two militaries. The two countries has established ties as long as 182 years ago, and the Pentagon is not letting Thailand’s 18th coup stopping Obama’s balance of power in the Asia Pacific.
Cobra Gold went on as planned in the end. However, media had limited access to the down-scaled amphibious exercises and a increased focus to HADR exercises. Similarly in March for Cope Tiger, the USAF deployed only twelve F-15C/D from Kadena, and for the first time in six years, a E-3B Sentry, as if a preamble to Defence Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement to deploy advance weaponry to the Asia-Pacific side of the globe.