General Surasak Kanjanarat, Thailand's de facto defence minister,
said the meeting was aimed at mapping out "future plans of action"
with the Chinese army, one of its oldest regional allies. He did not
elaborate on the plans.
The bid by Thailand's military rulers to strengthen ties with China
comes after Western powers, including old ally the United States,
criticised the May 22 coup and called for a speedy return to
The junta has said it has China's support.
"This meeting will be to talk about ties ... and future plans of
action and exchange views on regional security," Surasak, the head
of the delegation, told reporters.
"We will discuss in which areas we could increase military training.
We will not talk about the situation in Thailand because it is not
Surasak was due to meet the deputy chief-of-staff of the China's
army, Lieutenant-General Wang Guanzhong.
The coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between
the Bangkok-based royalist establishment and former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra and his allies. The ousted government had been
headed by the self-exiled, former telecommunications tycoon's
sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
Several foreign government have voiced disapproval of the coup,
including the United States, which scrapped joint military
programmes days after the generals took power.
In contrast, the ambassadors of China and Vietnam in Bangkok met
Thailand's armed forces chief last week in what the junta said was a
show of support.
On Monday, in the first major corporate deal since the coup,
state-owned China Mobile Ltd agreed to buy a 19 percent stake in
Thai telecoms group True Corp for $881 million.
The regime's engagement with China comes at a critical time for the
United States, which is shoring up ties with Asian allies and
building stronger relationships with countries like Vietnam and
Myanmar to counter China's growing assertiveness.
Perhaps with that in mind, the U.S. response to Thailand's coup has,
for now anyway, been limited to the suspension of about $3.5 million
in military aid and the cancellation of some training exercises and
visits by commanders.
While likely to find sympathy in China, Thailand's military is also
concerned about perceptions elsewhere. Junta leader General Prayuth
Chan-ocha called on 23 Thai ambassadors on Wednesday to make the
case for the coup.
"Thailand is not able to be alone in this world and a great part of
our income comes from exports which relies on international
relationships," Prayuth said.
"We can't make everyone agree with our actions but our duty is to
Malaysia's defence minister is due next week to make the first visit
by a foreign government minister since the coup. His trip showed "a
good understanding of the Thai situation", the Thai military said in
[to top of second column]
The army stepped in after more than six months of debilitating and
at times violent protests against Yingluck's government, saying it
had to act to prevent more bloodshed.
China's top newspaper on
Monday warned against aping Western-style democracy, pointing to
Thailand as an example of the kind of chaos the system can bring.
For a decade Thailand has been caught up in a political tug of war
between mostly poor supporters of Thaksin and middle-class Bangkok
residents aligned with the royalist establishment. Thaksin was
ousted in a 2006 coup and has lived abroad since 2008 to avoid a
He remains hugely popular among rural voters.
As part of the junta's reforms, it has moved to sideline civil
servants and senior police officers seen as loyal to Thaksin in what
his supporters see as part of a bid by the establishment to
permanently exclude him from politics.
The junta has imposed draconian controls since taking control. More
than 300 academics, journalists, activists and politicians, a
disproportionate number of them aligned to Thaksin, have been
rounded up by the military.
The junta has also banned political gatherings of more than five
people and imposed a nationwide curfew, now running from midnight to
However, over the past week, it has lifted the curfew in 10 holiday
destinations to help boost tourism, which accounts for about 10
percent of the economy. On Tuesday, it lifted it in a further 20
provinces but kept it in Bangkok.
Chinese tourists have flocked to Thailand in recent years,
overtaking the numbers of visitors from the United States and Europe
though the recent turmoil has frightened many off.
In the first five months of 2014, the number of tourists from China
plunged 54.9 percent from the same period a year earlier to 307,637,
according to the Association of Thai Travel Agents).
Chinese tourists, including visitors for business meetings and
conferences, accounted for 26 percent of total passenger arrivals in
(Additional Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Martin Petty and
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