Myanmar’s Crisis & the World

Myanmar Junta Alerts Troops After Move Forward Party's Statements on Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 22 May 2023

Shortly after Thailand’s Move Forward Party (MFP), a party of young liberal activists that campaigned on a promise to reform the monarchy and the armed forces, won the largest number of seats among the contestants in the country’s May 14 polls, the second-most powerful man in neighboring Myanmar’s military junta issued a directive to his regional commanders to watch the Thai-Myanmar border.

In his message, Vice Senior General Soe Win said: “The Move Forward Party is pro-West and they will assist terrorists … we have to watch the border and get information about them, their movements and their activities,” The Irrawaddy has learned. The “terrorists” he refers to in the message are anti-Myanmar regime resistance groups active along the border.

The general has reason to be wary. The MFP’s leader, Prime Minister-elect Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, has been a consistent critic of Thailand’s policy toward neighboring Myanmar, where the regime has been attacking civilians—including bombing villages, schools and clinics—as well as resistance forces.

Soe Win’s concern was likely only compounded when Pita revealed his policy on Myanmar at a post-election press conference on May 15, saying “We want to push ahead to make sure the Five Point Consensus is really achieved.” The consensus is a peace plan for Myanmar adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the wake of the military coup in 2021. The junta has ignored the plan and continued killing civilians.

Pita said: “We would start a humanitarian journey, especially with the Burma Act that passed in the Congress in America, we can start that work with the international community to make sure that we have the right amount of pressure and incentives for people to resolve their conflict.” The Burma Act authorizes US funding of non-lethal support for resistance forces in Myanmar.

For the Myanmar junta, it must seem that the writing is on the wall. The current Thai government has been accused of being too close to the regime and offering only a muted response to its atrocities. Bangkok has said it is adhering to ASEAN’s so-called non-interference policy, which prevents members of the association from interfering in the internal politics of other members.

Currently, the MFP is struggling to form a coalition government with other parties. Under the Thai constitution, which was forced through by the then-ruling junta in 2016, the senate has an outsized role in appointing the prime minister. To get around that, Pita would need at least 376 votes in the lower house.

However, the party leader has been spelling out his plans for Myanmar and the region, and at the very least they will be worrisome for the junta leaders next door.

On Saturday, Pita discussed his plans for the regional bloc when he met with a senior official from the World Economic Forum (WEF), stating that the next Move Forward-led government will revive Thailand’s leading role in ASEAN and work to lessen the violence in Myanmar.

Then on Sunday, he tweeted in English and Burmese that his thoughts and prayers are with the people of Myanmar, especially those affected by the recent cyclone that devastated the country’s western regions.

He urged the Thai caretaker government and the international community to expedite the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those affected by the cyclone. He said the call was in line with his new foreign policy agenda as PM-elect, adding that his policies on Myanmar will engage with all stakeholders—signifying an intention to engage with anti-regime forces—focusing on human security considerations, including humanitarian and economic aspects.

“These will be implemented with a view to achieving mutual peace and prosperity for Thailand, Myanmar, ASEAN and beyond,” his tweet reads.