US army chief part of first foreign group to visit

US army chief part of first foreign group to visit

Delegation agrees to all Covid precautions prior to meetings with Apirat and Prayut

Thai army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong (left) and US army chief of staff Gen James McConville shake hands during the 11th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference held in Bangkok in September last year. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Thai army chief Gen Apirat Kongsompong (left) and US army chief of staff Gen James McConville shake hands during the 11th Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference held in Bangkok in September last year. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

A six-member delegation led by the US army chief of staff will be the first group of foreigners to officially visit Thailand after the easing of the ban on inbound international flights this week.

Under a special arrangement, they will not be required to self-isolate for 14 days for the two-day trip, according to Thai security officials.

US army chief of staff Gen James McConville will meet his Thai counterpart, Gen Apirat Kongsompong, and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday and Friday, said Gen Somsak Rungsita, secretary-general of the National Security Council.

“The delegation must observe six measures of Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, with which they agreed to comply,” Gen Somsak said.

The rules are: the group must be small, with up to 10 members; their stay must be short; members must have certificates showing negative coronavirus tests from the source and destination countries; the host units in Thailand must consider assigning liaison officers to accompany them; health and security officials must accompany them; they must adhere to the itinerary and may not go to public places or use public transport.

Gen Somsak said the group would fly from Singapore to Thailand on a private flight. “They won’t be flying directly from the US. It’s a small delegation and will be in Thailand for two days.”

They were tested and quarantined for 14 days in the US before the trip and would be tested again in Singapore and at the Military Air Terminal 2 at Don Mueang airport.

“They will be accompanied by Thai officials and will travel on a predefined itinerary,” said Gen Somsak.

After their visit here, the team would leave for Japan.

A source at the Covid-19 centre said the army had earlier sent the schedule to the centre for consideration. Since the Americans are the first group to visit Thailand after the lockdown, authorities took time to write out the procedures and plans, which will be the standards for other official visits in the future.

The source said the US delegation had never asked not to be tested.

“They only asked that they be tested by a team of US army doctors from the Bangkok-based Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences. When the centre insisted on using a Thai team from the Public Health Ministry, they agreed,” it said. 

Earlier, some Thai news outlets reported that the delegation had declined to be tested in Thailand. The Thai army later labelled the report as fake news.


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