State Department officials have said that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to SE Asia and Thailand has been cut short because of a COVID-19 case among his travelling party.
As part of his visit to Thailand, Mr Blinken was scheduled to meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House on Thursday. On Wednesday night, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed the cancellation of the meeting.
In an effort to limit the spread of Covid-19, the US embassy said the top diplomat was returning to Washington.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the decision was made to mitigate COVID-19 risk and prioritize health and safety.
Furthermore, that Mr Blinken had expressed his regret to Thailand’s foreign minister over the phone, where he was scheduled to attend meetings on Thursday. Mr Blinken made the decision after a journalist he was travelling within Southeast Asia tested positive for Covid-19.
The U.S. Secretary of State was in Malaysia on Wednesday when a covid-19 positive case was confirmed in his travelling team.
In Malaysia, Blinken said the Biden administration was weighing new sanctions on Myanmar. These sanctions would put pressure on military rulers to restore democratic rule in Myanmar following a coup that happened in February.
Because of mass arrests and violence against protesters, the situation in Myanmar in the past ten months has become dire. Additionally, he said, the Biden administration is actively considering labelling the ongoing repression of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims as a “genocide.”
It will be crucial to determine in the coming weeks and months what additional steps and measures we can take individually and collectively. This will put pressure on the regime to return the country to a democratic path, he said.