Further updated: Military and the virus

4 08 2020

Yesterday, PPT saw a Reuters report that “Thailand has suspended plans for its army to undertake joint training with the U.S. military after nine Thai soldiers tested positive for coronavirus upon returning from Hawaii…” That was from the Defense Ministry on Sunday. To be precise Ministry spokesman Kongcheep Tantawanich stated: ““The army has suspended all plans to bring forces abroad until the situation improves…”.

It seems that last poor expression was crudely accurate as within hours US troops have arrived in Thailand for exercises. But no Thai service personnel have been “abroad.” At present, the situation is: “More than 100 U.S. troops were put under a 14-day quarantine when they arrived in Thailand on Monday…”. Two Thai military officers are watching over them at each of two Bangkok hotels. Hopefully they get replaced over the 14 days otherwise they are on long shifts.

Wondering who is paying? The two hotels listed are on the Alternative State Quarantine list and they aren’t cheap. As a The Conrad offers a “Deluxe Room (41 sq.m) starting at 137,000 THB per person for 15 nights.” The Anantara Riverside Bangkok’s cheapest is “Deluxe Room 73,000 THB per person per 14 days.” Another hotel listed is The Idle, which offers a “Superior 50,000 THB per person per 14 days.”

They all arrived, from Guam and Japan, at Utapao, so were transferred to Bangkok. None of this sounds particularly “safe” in a context where Thais still deal with restrictions.

“Thoughtfully,” Gen Nathapon Srisawat, a “special adviser to the Royal Thai Army (RTA) and director of the RTA’s Centre for the Management of the CCSA,” explained that “the RTA and the US army had jointly agreed on the military exercises prior to the pandemic, before adding that the exchange of military experiences will benefit the army.” He was asked why the Army “chose not to postpone the exercise despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Gen Nathapon played down the matter, saying the RTA will do its best to comply with health safety measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

Update 1: According to a Thai PBS report of Senator Kamnoon Sitthisamarn’s questioning of the need for Army exercises with US troops, it is mentioned that these exercises will occur despite objections by the CCSA. We can only assume that, as usual, the military does whatever it wants.

Update 2: A Bangkok Post editorial taunts the military:

For the army to suddenly allow foreign soldiers into the country for a mission that is generally deemed as not that urgent is inconsiderate of the sacrifice that Thais have had to make to cope with the outbreak….

Worse, the decision that seemingly goes against popular sentiment could put the army in an unfavourable light not just as an organisation that seeks privileged treatment for its own affairs but also as one that is out of touch with the public and reality.



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