No need for foreign troops
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No need for foreign troops

Is a war breaking out nearby? Or has there been any imminent threat to national territory?

There are no such security concerns apparently. That is why it is puzzling that the army has allowed more than 100 soldiers from the United States and Japan to come into the country for military exercises amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Thailand has reported no local community infections for more than two months following strict lockdown measures.

This positive outcome has not come without a price both in terms of the economic downturn and human suffering.

At present, Thailand's borders are still closed to visitors except for those with special permission.

Even returning Thais have to follow daily quotas and meet fit-to-fly as well as other Covid-19 requirements before they can board repatriation flights home.

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.

The joint drills will certainly bring benefits to the army but the experience does not seem worthy of the risk that the arrivals could pose.

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.

Has news arrived at the army yet that the US has the highest confirmed number of Covid-19 cases in the world pushing five million at present, with more than 40,000 new cases daily?

Japan could also experience a second wave of infections as the number of new cases in the capital Tokyo is on the rise.

The situation is especially grim in Okinawa where a state of emergency was declared after a sudden spike in new cases. US forces based in the prefecture have also been affected, with more than 200 military personnel testing positive for coronavirus.

Considering the situation, common sense would demand that military exercises be postponed. But that is not what the Thai army did.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) revealed on Monday that a special flight had landed at U-Tapao airport in Rayong carrying 71 US soldiers from Guam.

They were then transported to alternative state quarantine (ASQ) at the Conrad Hotel right in the heart of Bangkok.

In the evening another flight carrying 32 soldiers arrived from Japan and checked in at another hotel-turned ASQ on the Thonburi side.

The exercises that the soldiers are due to participate in include the Security Force Assistance Brigade, Subject Matter Expert Exchange and Balance Torch. The army did not clarify why these drills are so essential they could not be skipped or put off.

So far, the army has only assured that it will do its best to comply with health safety standards.

What the army did not say is how it plans to take responsibility in case of failure? Will it shoulder the consequences if a new cluster of infections occurs which demands more restrictions and damages the economy?

Do not forget what happened at the army-run Lumpinee Boxing Stadium where the first major cluster of infections was detected. Bringing foreign troops in during an outbreak carries far too high a risk for the army to take.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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