Thailand’s caretaker government headed by coup leader Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has been slammed for hosting a gathering of neighbouring countries to discuss Myanmar’s horrific political standoff. An endeavour that has been criticized for undermining regional peace efforts and being carried out by ASEAN.
According to a statement issued by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday, the objective of the informal dialogue, which Thailand is hosting for the third time, is to address a variety of themes in order to supplement the efforts of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to resolve the situation in Myanmar.
It stated that representatives from Laos, Cambodia, India, China, Brunei, and Vietnam, as well as Myanmar, would participate – a highly problematic topic because ASEAN leaders had agreed to exclude the ruling generals from their meetings.
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore are among the ASEAN members will not be present at the meeting. They are among those putting the most pressure on Myanmar’s military leadership to take steps towards peace.
Myanmar’s crisis began in February 2021, when the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration. The coup sparked large public protests, which were violently suppressed by security forces, sparking an armed resistance that has now expanded across much of the country.
ASEAN’s five-point plan on Myanmar
At a conference last month, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, whose nation chairs ASEAN this year, recognised to his fellow leaders that little progress had been made in ending the civil unrest, and reaffirmed a plea for an end to the carnage.
ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a part, agreed on a five-point plan two years ago, which includes a request for an immediate halt to killings and other forms of violence, as well as the start of a national dialogue. However, although initially adopting the proposal, the country’s military leadership have made little attempt to put it into action.
Because of its failure to cooperate with the plan, ASEAN later declared that Myanmar was not welcome to send top officials of its military administration to regional meetings. However, Thailand’s foreign minister has been invited to join the conference on Monday.
Malaysia’s foreign minister, Zambry Abdul Kadir, said in a statement Sunday that he would be unable to attend “due to prior commitments,” but that ASEAN’s peace plan “remained ASEAN’s valid reference and mandate in addressing the Myanmar issue.”
It was “critical that ASEAN demonstrate its unity in support of the ASEAN Chair and ASEAN processes that are consistent with the mandate and decisions made by ASEAN leaders,” it stated.
Thailand Engaging Myanmar Over ASEAN
Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai justified the meeting in media appearances on Sunday, saying it aimed to provide Myanmar with an update on its position. Thailand did not organise it on behalf of ASEAN, and an open invitation was extended to all nations interested in hearing from Myanmar.
“Dialogue is a basic requirement of diplomacy in the pursuit of peaceful solutions.” Thailand, a neighbouring country with a 2,400-kilometer border with Myanmar, wishes to see a stop of violence, which will eventually lead to peace and stability within Myanmar, according to a statement from the Thai foreign ministry.
The foreign ministry statement did not specify where the meeting would take place, but Don told the Associated Press that it will take place in the eastern shore vacation city of Pattaya.
Myanmar opposition parties have slammed the gathering arrangements.
More than 300 civil society organisations signed a statement calling it “a complete affront to the people of Myanmar who have sacrificed their lives to resist the Myanmar military’s attempt to seize power through years-long terror campaign against the entire nation.”
“We demand that the caretaker Thai Government cancel this meeting immediately,” the statement stated, urging other delegates to do the same.
Some Thai critics questioned why the meeting was convened so abruptly, despite the fact that the present caretaker administration would be replaced by opposition parties who won elections in May by August.
New Government to be Tougher on Myanmar
Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of the progressive Move Forward Party, which won the most seats in Parliament, has indicated that his administration will be tougher on Myanmar than the present administration of retired Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Gen Prayuth, who has been in power since leading a coup to depose an elected civilian government in 2014, has been chastised for his close relationship with Myanmar’s military authorities.
Thailand has a convoluted relationship with Myanmar, which was once a rival but is now a source of border trade, migrant labour, and natural gas, with strong army-to-army relationships and profitable Thai investments in Myanmar.
However, it is unclear why Thailand’s caretaker government, led by Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, is going to bat for Myanmar’s generals with only a few weeks left in office.
Foreign Minister Don defended the move, claiming that Thailand was suffering from border, commerce, and refugee issues. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former coup leader and junta chairman, emphasised that Thailand was not supporting with Myanmar’s military.