6,800 US soldiers take part in Cobra Gold military exercise

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BANGKOK The biggest US force in years joined an annual military exercise in Thailand yesterday despite controversy over the Thai junta's invitation to neighbouring Myanmar's army, which has been accused of ethnic cleansing.

The US scaled back attendance at Cobra Gold, Asia's largest multilateral military exercise, after a 2014 coup in Thailand.

But ties between the junta and the US have improved under President Donald Trump.

The 6,800 US personnel - nearly double last year's number - was a demonstration of Washington's continuing muscle in the region .

The Cobra Gold military exercise has been held for more than three decades. This year's exercise has been marked by Thailand's controversial invitation to Myanmar, where 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled military action that the United Nations has denounced as ethnic cleansing.

Mr Steve Castonguay, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok, said an army major from Myanmar was attending the opening ceremony but Myanmar would not take part in military drills.- REUTERS