Myanmar’s Crisis & the World

Thailand Will No Longer Be Quiet on Myanmar: Incoming Coalition  

By The Irrawaddy 25 May 2023

A key foreign policy advisor to the leader of Thailand’s liberal Move Forward Party (MFP) has told Thai PBS World that the incoming MFP-led government will no longer be silent on the crisis next door in Myanmar.

Myanmar has been engulfed in bloody conflict since the 2021 coup and brutal crackdown triggered a popular armed resistance against military rule.

Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis have stalled and the issue has become a threat to regional stability, especially for neighboring Thailand.

Fuadi Pitsuwan, foreign affairs chief for MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat, said the incoming government will revive Thai foreign policy to improve its image in ASEAN and alleviate Myanmar’s political crisis. MFP is forming an eight-party coalition after winning the largest number of seats in the country’s May 14 general election.

Harvard-educated Fuadi, who is the son of former Thai foreign minister Surin Pitsuwan, said that Thailand will move away from the current government’s “quiet diplomacy” in dealing with the crisis in Myanmar. The outgoing military-backed Prayut Chan-o-cha administration has been criticized for being too friendly with the junta.

“Thailand needs to play a more active role in dealing with problems confronting the region, especially the crisis in Myanmar,” Fuadi said on Tuesday.

“We will engage in inclusive dialogues with all stakeholders, while focusing on both humanitarian and economic aspects that are in Thailand’s interest,” he said.

He added that under the new government, Thailand will rebalance its foreign policy to restore its reputation in the international arena. Under the Prayut government, Bangkok foreign policy leaned away from western countries and more towards China.

Fuadi also insisted Thailand under the MFP-led government would be more active in international efforts to tackle global crises such as environmental degradation.

Fuadi studied at Harvard and graduated from Georgetown University with a degree in foreign service.

His father, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, once reconfigured ASEAN’s “constructive engagement” policy with the previous military regime in Myanmar to “flexible engagement”.

Surin later became secretary-general of the bloc and helped lead ASEAN and UN relief efforts for cyclone-hit Myanmar in 2008. As chair of the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force, he visited the military regime to negotiate delivery of aid to the Ayeyarwady Delta, where cyclone Nargis left 84,500 people dead, 53,800 missing, and affected 2.4 million people, according to UN estimates.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat revealed his Myanmar policy at a post-election press conference on May 15, saying “We want to push ahead to make sure the Five Point Consensus is actually achieved.”

The consensus is the peace plan for Myanmar adopted by ASEAN adopted in the wake of the 2021 coup. The junta has ignored the plan and continued its deadly campaign of ground and air attacks against civilians.

Pita highlighted the importance of the Burma Act, which he said Thailand would use to “start working with the international community to make sure that we have the right amount of pressure and incentives for people to resolve their conflict”.

Passed by US Congress last December, the Burma Act authorizes US funding of non-lethal support for resistance forces in Myanmar.

On Saturday, Pita told a senior official from the World Economic Forum that the Move Forward-led government will revive Thailand’s leading role in ASEAN and work to lessen the violence in Myanmar.

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 region. He urged the caretaker Thai government and international community to hasten delivery of aid to those affected by cyclone Mocha, adding that the call was made in line with his new foreign policy agenda as PM-in-waiting.

Significantly, he said his Myanmar policy will engage with all stakeholders – indicating an intention to engage with anti-regime forces in a fresh push for peace.

The story was updated at 6:03 PM on Thursday.