Okinawa-based troops give their blood for Cobra Gold drills

Ban Na Isan Village Chief Arun Sopaporn thanks U.S. Army Maj. Robert Vandertuin the head of a Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force for visiting in Chachoengsao Kingdom of Thailand Jan. 31 2018

More than 6,000 members of the U.S armed forces are in Thailand for the annual Gold Cobra military exercises. Myanmar, accused of human-rights violations against its Rohingya Muslim population, is not participating in this year's drills, although observers were originally invited to view humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief drills, a Pentagon spokesman said last week.

USA lawmakers last week demanded Myanmar's exclusion from the exercise.

The Armed Services Blood Bank Center, as part of the Armed Services Blood Program, collected and delivered donated blood to two civilian hospitals here for storage for potential emergency use by USA service members participating in this years Cobra Gold exercise. "They're not part of the exercises here".

The annual joint and multinational exercise, co-sponsored by the kingdom of Thailand and the United States, is one of the largest theater security cooperation military training exercises in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to the Marine Corps. The officer attended the opening ceremony, along with other members of the defense attache corps in Bangkok, he said.

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Exercise Cobra Gold 2018 is an annual exercise conducted in Thailand, held from February 13-23, with seven full participating nations.

The United States has pushed for the restoration of democracy in Thailand, its oldest regional ally. Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Associated Press "militaries engaged in ethnic cleansing should not be honing their skills alongside US troops", a reference to accounts of atrocities committed by Myanmar troops.

"We pre-stage the blood at host nation hospitals because Thailand has a great network that is able to hold and facilitate our blood in the event of an emergency", said U.S. Navy Lt. Nii Adjei Oninku, III Marine Expeditionary Force health service support officer.

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