Thails asks US to provide security for Thai troops in Iraq
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Thailand has asked the United States to provide security for its non-combat soldiers in Iraq or consider moving them to a safer neighboring country if violence there escalates further, the foreign minister said Friday.
Surakiart Sathirathai said he'd discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell by telephone the possibility of moving Thailand's 443 troops to Kuwait if violence in Iraq intensifies and impedes their work.
"I told him that Thai troops were deployed to Iraq for a humanitarian mission, and that when the situation there reaches a point that we cannot perform our duty ... there is no point in us staying,'' he told reporters after returning from an official visit to Saudi Arabia.
"We do not have our own armed men, so I told him that if they can provide enough security, we would stay as long as our soldiers are not in danger or move them to a safe area in a nearby country,'' Surakiart said.
He said it was possible that Thai troops would move to Kuwait if the Iraq situation worsens.
Thailand's Senate voted Tuesday to keep its troops in Iraq after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the safety of the Thai soldiers there hadn't yet been compromised.
Thailand tacitly supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq and sent its first batch of troops in September to help with reconstruction.
A replacement contingent left last month, and is expected to complete Thailand's yearlong mission.
The Thai soldiers are part of a Polish-led, 9,500-strong multinational force in south-central Iraq.
Their humanitarian mission includes sending mobile medical teams into area communities, and helping rebuild roads and buildings.
Two Thai soldiers were killed in December when an explosives-packed car rammed into the wall of their camp in the southern city of Karbala. - AP