Thailand’s Deputy PM Says he had Constructive Talks With Myanmar Coup Leader
By The Irrawaddy 19 November 2021
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai finally revealed that he travelled to the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw last Sunday, to deliver humanitarian aid and to hold talks with coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Despite local media reports on the Thai official’s sudden visit, the military regime has yet to make a statement about Don Pramudwinai’s visit. His trip to Naypyitaw coincided with the visits of senior officials from China and Japan.
Thailand is concerned about the turmoil sparked by the junta’s February coup, with the Thai authorities seeing an influx of refugees and migrant workers across the Myanmar-Thai border.
The Thai newspaper The Nation reported on Thursday that the Deputy Prime Minister had delivered 17 tons of relief supplies to Myanmar, as well as holding constructive talks with the coup leader. Don Pramudwinai said that the Myanmar crisis is concerning international agencies in many countries.
“The Thai private sector is concerned about the situation in the neighboring country and has collected essential items and sent them to Myanmar,” The Nation quoted Don Pramudwinai as saying.
It is not known what humanitarian items were delivered to Myanmar, although informed Thai sources believe that COVID-19 vaccines were among the aid donated.
Diplomatic sources stated that the Thai delegation comprised five members, including a senior advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, his chief of staff and the counselor of his office. However, the Thai ambassador to Myanmar was not present at the meeting.
The Deputy Prime Minister added that he discussed important issues with Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and received a “good response” from him.
Senior Thai army commanders are known to have close links with the Myanmar military, and the coup leader has visited Thailand 11 times.
Thailand’s government has refrained from speaking out against the military takeover and Thai scholars and observers have strongly criticized Bangkok’s position on Myanmar since the coup.
Last month, Thai academics held a discussion on Thai foreign policy at Chiang Mai University’s School of Public Policy.
Kiat Sittheeamorn, a Democrat Party MP and a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs said, “We present ourselves as though we have no values with respect to human rights. It’s unacceptable and it’s not about non-interference, as a line has been crossed”.
Sihasak Phuangketkeow, former permanent secretary for foreign affairs said, “I am uncomfortable [presently] because we don’t have a strategy. We look only at immediate interests and issues and we don’t want to think ahead to how peace, stability and progress can be achieved. What we must do is to make more effort as we are a frontline state”.
He added, “We must think like a frontline state and lead, not be led, and lead the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is discreet diplomacy. We have channels to the military and to the opposition. Why don’t we use them? It may not be easy, because the Myanmar military want to hold on to power, but we have to convince and apply pressure.”
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