Many more countries have expressed interest in taking part in the multinational Cobra Gold military exercise in Thailand this year, Supreme Commander Thanchaiyan Srisuwan says.
Gen Thanchaiyan was speaking after a meeting of the chiefs of the armed forces on Wednesday, which he said touched on the Cobra Gold 2018 drill, which is due to be held from Feb 13 to 23 in Rayong, Chon Buri and Chanthaburi.
He said this will be a heavy year for the drill, where the number of personnel and countries which take part in the exercise will increase compared with the previous year.
Cobra Gold 2018 will be from Feb 13-23
With additional countries expressing a desire to join, it would be good for international relations, but an excessive number of participants could put a strain on the drill, the supreme commander said.
The quality of the exercises must be taken into account, he said.
The military earlier said seven countries would participate in full exercises. They are the US, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia.
Ten countries will join the drill as observers -- Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Germany, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Sweden.
Those nations which are part of the Multinational Planning Augmentation Team -- Australia, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Fiji and New Zealand -- will also take part.
Two other countries -- China and India, will also join.
Thailand will provide 5,600 personnel while 5,800 will come from the US, 200 from South Korea, 146 from Japan, 68 from Indonesia, 50 from Singapore, and 44 each from China and India.
The closing ceremony of the exercise will be held at the navy's training ground in Chanthaburi, where participants will also conduct a live-fire drill.
"With more countries requesting to join the drill, we will try to add them. But we may take steps to ask them to serve as observers before giving way for them to join the exercise," Gen Thanchaiyan said.