The army chiefs of staff from Thailand, the United States, China and 25 other nations on Wednesday concluded a three-day conference and related meetings in Bangkok aimed at promoting security, stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific region, officials said.
The 11th biennial Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference (IPACC) provided opportunities to create mutual understanding aimed at sustainable security, Royal Thai Army Commander Gen. Apirat Kongsompong said.
He and U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville hosted the conference, which also brought together the top army leaders from India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Australia, among other countries.
“The Indo-Pacific Army Chiefs Conference 2019 (IPACC19) was a productive forum to discuss opportunities and issues in the strategically important Indo-Pacific with regional allies and partners” McConville said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
“Looking forward to this week’s Stryker handover ceremony and seeing U.S. Army Pacific supporting our ally Thailand modernize their Army,” the American army commander added, referring to the expected delivery of 10 U.S.-made armored vehicles to Bangkok later this week.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, his country’s former army chief of staff, addressed the top generals from the 28 nations on Monday.
The conference and its side meetings “will promote the maintenance of the national security environment, build stability, and enable a sustainable peace,” said Prayuth, who has led Thailand since spearheading a military coup that toppled a civilian-led government in 2014.
“The meetings are yet another symbol of the close cooperation between Thailand and the United States,” added Prayuth, who was sworn into office as PM in July following a general election in late March.
In remarks during the IPACC opening ceremony on Monday, Apirat said the conference’s main purpose was to allow regional army chiefs to meet, exchange information and discuss current security concerns.
“The issues of concern are human trafficking, drug trafficking and cyber war,” he told reporters later in the day. “We need to brainstorm to have a policy and cooperate with countries in the region to keep the peace.”
In his remarks, McConville reminded his colleagues from other countries who were attending the meeting that people were relying on them to keep the region safe.
“Our relationships with allies and partners is a critical part of our strength and gives us much greater capabilities to preserve safety across the region,” he said.
“I challenge us all to think in new ways, to think beyond geography and borders, and consider multi-lateral, multi-national, and other creative processes and organizations to preserve and promote security, stability and peace in the region.”
McConville spoke to reporters about the importance of IPACC and similar trainings.
“I think we should continue these exercises because they lead to sustainable security in the region and allow for economic growth to those who share the same interests as us,” he said.
The United States has stepped up its relationship with Thailand in reaction to China’s One Belt One Road initiative to build a 21st-century Silk Road by connecting countries through networks of railways, bridges and ports, according to Dulapak Preecharush, a professor at Thammasat University in Thailand.
“ASEAN is a key region in which the U.S. and China are doing power plays,” he told BenarNews. “The U.S. is at disadvantage geographically but has strength with military power projection.”
He added that the U.S. has used military relations to strengthen alliances.
“The factor for improved ties is Thailand’s geo-political importance given its location as the center of Indo-China – the key country among the CLMV sub-grouping (Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar and Vietnam),” he said. “The U.S. can’t afford to not prioritize.”