Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Thailand has begun to withdraw its small military contingent from Iraq, as scheduled, following its year-long deployment.
The Southeast Asian country, an ally of the U.S., sent 451 military engineers, medics and a surveillance platoon to Iraq last August, amid jitters about their safety after terrorists bombed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing 23 people.
Two months after the deployment, President Bush awarded Thailand major non-NATO ally status, opening the door to stepped-up military assistance.
Based near the Shiite city of Karbala, 60 miles south of Baghdad, the contingent on several occasions was said to be considering pulling out prematurely because of the security situation.
After two Thai soldiers were killed last December when a car exploded adjacent to the wall of their camp, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came up increased opposition pressure to withdraw the troops but resisted.
When the security situation began to deteriorate further in April, however, the Thai troops were effectively restricted to base.
Their year-long deployment now up, they are being moved out of Iraq in batches, via Kuwait.
With Thailand's departure, the Asia-Pacific region is now represented in the multinational coalition by Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Mongolia and Tonga.
The Philippines last month withdrew its small contingent in exchange for the release of a Filipino civilian held hostage by terrorists in Iraq.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.