Thai PM to Meet Burma President, Parliament Speaker During 3-Day Visit

By Saw Yan Naing 26 September 2014

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha will pay a three-day official visit to Burma starting on Oct 1 and is scheduled to visit the capital Naypyidaw to meet President Thein Sein and Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann, The Irrawaddy has learned.

Gen. Prayut, who leads the military regime that seized power from a democratically elected government in May, plans to fly to Naypyidaw on Oct 1, where he will meet Thein Sein, and the two are expected to sign a memorandum of understand to boost trade relations.

On the same day, he is due to meet Shwe Mann, who chairs the ruling Union Development and Solidarity Party (USDP), The Irrawaddy understands. Prayut will also pay a visit to Buddhist religious sites constructed in Naypyidaw.

On Oct 2, he will fly to Burma’s largest city and commercial capital Rangoon to meet with the Thai business community and to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, before leaving the next day.

Thailand’s newspaper The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Prayut is tentatively scheduled to visit in early October and it quoted the Thai Ambassador to Burma Pisanu Suvanajata as saying that economic cooperation, particularly on the Thailand-backed Dawei Special Economic Zone in southern Burma, would be discussed during the visit.

The Thai ambassador told the Post that Prayut would also seek cooperation from Naypyidaw in stemming the flow of Rohingya Muslim migrants, who have been fleeing en masse by boat to Thailand and onward to Muslim-majority Malaysia, in order to escape persecution in western Burma’s Arakan State.

Previously, the Thai junta has indicated that it wants to repatriate the roughly 130,000 Burmese refugees living in camps in western Thailand in the coming years because of Burma’s ongoing peace process.

The multi-billion dollar Dawei SEZ and deep sea port in Tenasserim Division, close to the border with Thailand, has been planned by the Burmese and Thai governments for years. The mega-project is controversial as it would displace some 30,000 local residents. It has suffered financial and project planning setbacks and came to a complete halt after Thailand plunged into a political crisis late last year.

Prayuth’s visit to neighboring Burma will be the Thai junta leader’s first official trip abroad.

The Thai regime 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 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.

The Thai junta’s chief already met with his Burmese counterpart, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, chief of Burma’s armed force, when he visited Bangkok in July.