UN Envoy, Thai Leader Hold Talks on Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2022

The UN secretary-general’s special envoy on Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, held talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok on Monday to discuss the situation in Myanmar.

The meeting was held to coordinate and solicit support for international efforts to help displaced people and press Myanmar’s junta to commit to ASEAN’s five-point peace plan.

Heyzer later said in a statement that the “prime minister has an important role in preventing further deterioration of the crisis in Myanmar, where an implosion would bring further instability to an already volatile border area.”

In a separate statement, Prayut said Myanmar’s problems were complex and its situation should be addressed “gradually with understanding and through building trust with Myanmar’s leader.”

The Thai leader also told the UN special envoy that Thailand had a “humanitarian area” and refugees were returned only on a voluntary basis.

Thai government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana later briefed media that the prime minister conveyed to the special envoy that Thailand would not push back any refugee fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

Fighting has raged for more than a month between regime troops and the Karen National Liberation Army in Lay Kay Kaw in Karen State’s Myawaddy Township, sending thousands of villagers and activists fleeing to Thailand since Dec. 15.

Thousands more villagers are internally displaced on the Myanmar side of the Moei River, which forms the border with Thailand, and are in need of humanitarian support. Thai authorities have helped the displaced people access food and clean drinking water by letting migrant volunteers and well-wishers cross the border with food donations.

Junta air raids in Lay Kay Kaw and Kawkarike in Myawaddy, and in Loikaw, Demoso and Hpruso townships in Kayah State this month have pushed more IDPs into difficult conditions. The junta’s airstrikes on towns in Kayah have also caused more than half of the state’s 300,000 population to become internally displaced.

The Myanmar military continues to shell and conduct air raids on locations in Kayah and Chin states and Sagaing Region, where thousands of resistance forces are fighting against the regime. Local residents have fled their homes in their thousands to take refuge in neighboring towns and villages.

After Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose country currently holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, visited Myanmar early this month, Heyzer told him in a videoconference that she was willing to work with Cambodia on resolving the conflict. She said she was pleased with the immediate action taken by the prime minister, given the urgency of the issue. ASEAN member states have expressed reservations about Hun Sen’s visit, which upset many in Myanmar and has drawn criticism for its potential to confer legitimacy on the junta.

On Jan. 14, Heyzer met Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. The two sides expressed their concern over the violence in Myanmar, and Don reiterated Thailand’s readiness to cooperate with the UN on finding peaceful solutions to the situation in the neighboring country, the Thai Foreign Ministry said.
In December, Heyzer succeeded Christine Schraner Burgener, who was appointed in 2018, mainly to tackle the Rohingya Muslim issue in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, in partnership with the country’s government. She was not allowed to enter the country after the military staged a coup in February 2021.

Heyzer, 73, a Singporean, will not only inherit Schraner Burgener’s main mission but also her failed task of trying to persuade Myanmar junta leaders to engage in dialogue to settle the ongoing political and social turmoil caused by the coup.

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