Thai army delegation visits China amid Western reproach of coup

Thai army delegation visits China amid Western reproach of coup
Army leader General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (center)

BANGKOK - A delegation of Thai military commanders travelled to China on Wednesday for talks on regional security and joint training amid Western reproach of the army's seizure of power in a coup last month.

General Surasak Kanjanarat, Thailand's de facto defence minister, said the meeting was aimed at mapping out "future plans of action" with the Chinese army, one of its oldest regional allies. He did not elaborate on the plans.

The bid by Thailand's military rulers to strengthen ties with China comes after Western powers, including old ally the United States, criticised the May 22 coup and called for a speedy return to democracy.

The junta has said it has China's support. "This meeting will be to talk about ties ... and future plans of action and exchange views on regional security,"Surasak, the head of the delegation, told reporters.

"We will discuss in which areas we could increase military training. We will not talk about the situation in Thailand because it is not relevant." Surasak was due to meet the deputy chief-of-staff of the China's army, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong.

The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies. The ousted government had been headed by the self-exiled, former telecommunications tycoon's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

Several foreign government have voiced disapproval of the coup, including the United States, which scrapped joint military programmes days after the generals took power.

In contrast, the ambassadors of China and Vietnam in Bangkok met Thailand's armed forces chief last week in what the junta said was a show of support.

On Monday, in the first major corporate deal since the coup, state-owned China Mobile Ltd agreed to buy a 19 per cent stake in Thai telecoms group True Corp for $881 million.

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