Thai envoy warns against ‘breakaway’ rhetoric on Myanmar

Thai envoy warns against ‘breakaway’ rhetoric on Myanmar

Condemnation by the international community with “dwindling returns,” the conference said

Police stand guard as they await protests against the military coup in Yangon on February 4 last year. (Reuters file photo)

SINGAPORE: The international community should not resort to “cancellation rhetoric” when dealing with the military junta in Myanmar, says Thailand’s new special envoy to the country.

“Convictions, sanctions, ostracism … have had diminishing returns,” Pornpimol Kanchanalak told attendees at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of security and international affairs experts in Singapore on Saturday.

She was responding to comments from other speakers who expressed little confidence that democratic norms can be restored in Myanmar any time soon.

US State Department adviser Derek Chollet said there was “no chance” that the junta’s scheduled August 2023 elections would be free and fair.

“I think there is no chance that it could be free and fair and it can be an attempt to just manipulate the region, the international community,” he said.

Noeleen Heyzer, the UN special envoy for Myanmar – who has not been allowed to visit the country since taking office late last year – fears an illegal poll could spark further unrest.

She said if Myanmar’s citizens lacked confidence, the elections would return the country to “proper civilian rule” and respecting the will of the people could be a “trigger point for greater violence.”

Ms Pornpimol acknowledged concerns about the upcoming election but said the international community must “take at face value” the junta’s pledge to hold elections.

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai announced in April the appointment of Ms. Pornpimol, one of his advisers, to the new post of Special Envoy.

The ministry said it will coordinate efforts in negotiations with the Myanmar government and will report directly to Mr Don.

Ms. Pornpimol, a businesswoman and lobbyist with extensive experience in the United States, rose to fame in 2000 after pleading guilty to illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic Party in the 1990s, allegedly in favor of the Clinton administration for Thai and Asian customers.

Myanmar has been in turmoil and its economy has been paralyzed since the February 2021 coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the November 2020 election, but the military claimed to use voter fraud to justify the coup.

Nearly 2,000 civilians have been killed and more than 14,000 arrested in the junta’s crackdown on dissidents.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urged ASEAN countries to go back to the drawing board and set deadlines for the so-called five-point consensus reached in Jakarta in April 2021 and an end to the violence and “constructive dialogue” between all parties demands Burma.

He said there had been no discussions about throwing Myanmar off the bloc.

Mr Chollet confirmed that Washington “is not considering” supplying arms to anti-coup militants in Myanmar at this time, despite requests for assistance such as this to Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

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