Malaysia's Anwar Urges Thailand to Step up on Myanmar Crisis
By AFP 10 February 2023
BANGKOK—Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim asked Thailand on Thursday to play a bigger role in bringing stability to coup-hit Myanmar, as diplomatic efforts to bring peace there flounder.
Anwar held his first bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha since the former won office late last year.
The Thai government has faced international criticism for maintaining normalized ties with Myanmar’s junta and for downplaying alleged atrocities in its neighbor since the country was plunged into chaos following a putsch two years ago.
“There’s very little we can do except to continue this so-called constructive engagement with the Myanmar junta,” Anwar told reporters.
“But I think you are placed, prime minister, in a better position to express many of our concerns.”
Thousands of mostly Muslim ethnic Rohingya, heavily persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have risked their lives on perilous boat journeys in an attempt to reach Malaysia or Indonesia in recent years.
Nearly one million Rohingya live in camps near Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar, after fleeing a brutal military crackdown in 2017.
Anwar said the close to 200,000 refugees his country was hosting were a heavy burden.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led so-far fruitless diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil in Myanmar, where armed People’s Defense Forces have staged anti-coup attacks since the military takeover.
There has been little progress on a Five-Point Consensus peace plan agreed with the junta in April 2021, which calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.
Late last year, Thailand raised eyebrows when it hosted Myanmar’s top diplomat at informal talks that included Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but excluded other ASEAN countries that had been vocal critics of the junta.
It was the first time in more than a year that Myanmar’s foreign minister met an ASEAN foreign minister grouping in person, after the bloc snubbed the junta from top-level summits over a lack of progress on ASEAN’s peace plan.
Anwar said ASEAN needed “coherent, concerted action”.
At talks in Jakarta last week, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged ASEAN countries to show unity on implementing the peace plan.