After failing to engage Myanmar’s junta in talks, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai has made a mess by meeting Aung San Suu Kyi in detention. He is the only diplomat to have met the ousted Myanmar leader since she was detained when the army seized power in February, 2021.
Don, who is also the deputy prime minister of Thailand, told his ASEAN counterparts in Jakarta that Suu Kyi was in good health. He described his talks with the Nobel laureate as “positive development and a step in the right direction” in finding a peaceful settlement to the ongoing situation in Myanmar. The minister added that Suu Kyi encouraged dialogue.
However, Thailand’s earlier talks with Myanmar’s junta were not in line with ASEAN’s policy. The Myanmar military has been banned from attending official high-level ASEAN meetings. It failed to follow through on the ASEAN plan, carrying out a bloody crackdown on anti-coup demonstrations and airstrikes on armed resistance forces. The junta and rebel militias have refused to compromise on their respective conditions to start even informal talks.
Sources say the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s shadow government, will join talks only if the junta scraps the 2008 constitution which provides the legal basis for a military role in government, and to release political prisoners. Sasa, the spokesperson for NUG, demanded the junta to agree in principle that the people of Myanmar do not have a military dictatorship anymore. He also called for deeper engagement with ASEAN.
But ASEAN is sticking to its peace consensus, but the chair – Indonesia is trying to bring all the stakeholders in the conflict together for informal talks. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told ASEAN leaders that only a political solution will lead to a durable peace. “We are still very much concerned to see the continuing and increasing violence in Myanmar. We strongly urge all stakeholders to denounce violence as this is paramount to build trust.”
She also criticized Don’s meeting with the Myanmar junta and stressed that the five-point consensus should remain the focus of ASEAN. It calls for an immediate end to the violence, peace talks between the junta and the opponents, and the delivery of humanitarian aid.