Thaksin's Alleged Convo on Burma Military Chief Circulates Online

By Yan Pai 16 July 2013

Thailand’s supreme military commander has urged journalists to be sensitive when reporting on the audio clip of a conversation between ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and a deputy defense minister about Burma’s commander-in-chief.

The 30-minute audio clip, which is believed to capture a discussion between Thaksin and Thai Deputy Defense Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa during a secret meeting in Hong Kong, began spreading through social media including Facebook about two weeks ago.

The voices discuss a several issues, including a plan to push for an amnesty bill for Thaksin, the military’s reshuffle to give Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government greater control over their affairs, and opportunities surrounding the Dawei port project in Burma.

In the conversation, the two men discuss the possibility of using their links with Burma’s commander-in-chief, Sr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, to influence Burmese leaders over the port project. Min Aung Hlaing has close ties to Burma’s President Thein Sein.

Following the emergence of the audio clip, Thailand’s supreme commander, Gen Thanasak Patimaprakorn, traveled to Burma last week to attend a friendly football tournament between Burma, Thailand, India and Singapore.

The Thai commander said Min Aung Hlaing appeared neither angry nor concerned about the audio clip when they met, according to a report by the Bangkok Post over the weekend.

“Myanmar and Thailand remain friendly, as usual,” he told reporters during a visit to an army training ground, according to the Bangkok Post. “He [Min Aung Hlaing] didn’t say anything when we met. I can assure you that he understands.”

However, he urged reporters to be careful when reporting on the clip, in order to avoid misunderstandings between the two countries.

The Thai and Burmese commanders have reportedly played golf together, according to Burma’s state-run media. Min Aung Hlaing also reportedly met with Thaksin in Burma in April during the Buddhist New Year festival, and during a visit to Thailand in May he was awarded the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.

Thaksin has maintained good relationships with senior officers from Burma’s former military regime since the mid-1990s, including former Gen Khin Nyunt from the military intelligence unit, in a business partnership for telecommunications company Bagan Cybertech.

“Thailand sees that the army will continue to influence and rule Burma, so it assumes it can manipulate Burma if it has good and strong ties with the Burmese army,” said Aung Lin Htut, a former major from Burma’s military intelligence unit who now lives in the United States under political asylum. “That was why Min Aung Hlaing was persuaded with an award, the Knight Grand Cross of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand.”