Myanmar Junta Leader Meets Thai Military Chief in Rakhine

By The Irrawaddy 20 January 2023

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing met chief of defense forces of the Royal Thai Armed Forces General Chalermpol Srisawat in Ngapali Beach in Rakhine State’s Thandwe in western Myanmar on Thursday, according to an announcement by the Myanmar military.

The Thai delegation arrived in Thandwe on Thursday on a special aircraft of the Royal Thai Air Force to attend the 8th High-Level Committee Meeting between the Myanmar and Thai armed forces. The two sides will discuss promotion of ties and cooperation between the two militaries during the three-day meeting.

According to a BBC report based on a statement issued by the Royal Thai Army, military leaders of the two countries discussed cooperation on border security and stability, and agreed to adopt a framework for cooperation between the two armies in the future.

Min Aung Hlaing, who is also Myanmar’s commander-in-chief of defense services, reportedly thanked his Thai counterpart for Bangkok’s assistance to Myanmar to fight COVID-19.

Myanmar’s Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) General Maung Maung Aye and other high-ranking officials welcomed the Thai delegation upon their arrival in Thandwe on Thursday.

Established in 2010, the committee meets once a year. The two countries take turns hosting the meeting. The last time the two sides met was for the seventh meeting in 2019 in Bangkok, which Min Aung Hlaing attended.

Myanmar hosted the sixth meeting in 2018 in the country’s ancient city of Bagan, which was also the venue for the second meeting.

Min Aung Hlaing will also visit Sittwe during his Rakhine trip, where he will discuss with local battalion commanders the upgrading of a naval base in the town and issues relating to the border between Maungdaw and Bangladesh, according to junta sources. Two Rohingya armed organizations, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, reportedly clashed at the border near Maungdaw earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the junta’s home affairs minister, Lieutenant-General Soe Htut, and deputy police chief arrived in Sittwe, which has seen security beefed up around the town and along the beach.

Myanmar has been in social and political chaos since military rule began in 2021. The Thursday meeting is the first between the two military chiefs since the takeover.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which both Myanmar and Thailand are members, adopted a five-point peace plan calling for, among other things, the immediate cessation of violence in the country in an effort to resolve the Myanmar crisis in 2021.

However, the plan has made no progress as the junta has refused to implement any of its provisions. So far, the regime has killed more than 2,700 people, mainly anti-regime activists, in a brutal response to the resistance, including air strikes against civilians.

Indonesia is the ASEAN chair for 2023. Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Panjaitan recently commented that Myanmar’s military regime should give up power and let someone qualified run the country, saying “There are so many militaries in charge of government, but if you are not qualified, why should you be president?”