Thai PM Likely to Choose Burma for First Trip Abroad 

By Saw Yan Naing 12 September 2014

CHIANG MAI — Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, who leads the military regime that seized power from a democratically elected government in May, is likely to choose Burma as his destination for a first official visit abroad, a Thai official said on Friday.

The general, who took the office of prime minister last week, is planning to visit Burma soon in order to strengthen ties with the neighboring government, according to an official at the Information Department of Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

“The trip to Myanmar is under consideration. So, we could not give any details, it is not confirmed yet. If it is confirmed, that news will be [published] in the Thai newspapers,” said the official, who declined to be named.

A report by Agence France-Presse on Friday quoted Thai Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwinai as saying that Prayuth would visit Naypyidaw in late September or early October.

“The prime minister is scheduled to visit Myanmar as his first foreign country [to visit] because Myanmar currently chairs ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations,” he reportedly said, referring to the 10-nation regional bloc.

The Thai commander-in-chief led the army’s coup d’état on May 22 that ousted the government of Premier Yingluck Shinawatra. The coup marked a new phase in the political battle in Thailand between the Democratic Party and the Royalist establishment, which is supported by the army, against the exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party.

The Thai junta has come in for strong criticism from the US and other Western government, with which Thailand has good relations, and the Bangkok regime appears to be now seeking support in the region.

The Thein Sein government, largely filled with members of Burma’s former military regime, has refrained from criticizing its neighbor. In recent months, the countries have organized a number of meetings to bolster ties, largely in the field of military cooperation.

Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the powerful Burma Army, made a visit to Bangkok in July to personally meet the junta leader Prayuth.. They discussed bilateral military cooperation and issues such as the repatriation of the roughly 140,000 Burmese refugees living in camps on the Thai-Burma border.

Shortly after taking power, the Thai junta announced that it wants cooperate with Naypyidaw to arrange for the speedy return of the refugees because of peace process, which in recent years has led to ceasefires and a drop in fighting but no permanent, nationwide peace accord to end Burma’s ethnic conflict.

The Thai regime also began a massive crackdown on the millions migrant laborers, an effort that resulted in an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians but mostly spared Burmese migrants.

Recently, on Aug. 21, a delegation of top Thai military officials visited Burma at the invitation of Min Aung Hlaing for another meeting to boost ties between the countries’ militaries, according to the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Gen. Tanasak Patimapragorn, chief of defense forces of Royal Thai Armed Forces, attended the event in Bagan during which further joint activities such as the exchange of military intelligence, military-to-military talks, and cooperation on counter-terrorism.