Duterte to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar

Pia Ranada
Duterte to meet Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte flies to Myanmar as well as Thailand in March to complete his visits to Southeast Asian countries

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to meet Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit to Myanmar this weekend.

Duterte’s meeting with Suu Kyi, now Myanmar’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister, is just one of the highlights of his official visit from March 19 to 20, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

He will also be participating in bilateral talks with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw who will host a state banquet for him, said DFA Spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose on Thursday, March 16, during a Palace news briefing.

Duterte and his official delegation will meet Myanmar Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other high-level government officials.

In keeping with tradition, Duterte will attend a gathering of Filipino residents of Myanmar. This will take place in the capital, Naypyidaw.

There are around 1,800 Filipinos living in Myanmar, many employed by foreign corporations and international organizations, said Jose.

Signing of deals in Thailand

After his visit to Myanmar, Duterte will fly to Bangkok, Thailand for an official visit from March 20 to 22.

It would be his 2nd time in Bangkok as President since he had visited back in November to pay his respects to the late Thai monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. (READ: Gov’t spends P277M on Duterte’s foreign trips)

Duterte will not meet new Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn but will hold a bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

“They are expected to discuss issues of mutual concern, including political, economic, agriculture, energy, education, and defense cooperation,” said Jose.

Bilateral deals between Thailand and the Philippines are likely to be signed during Duterte’s visit.

Priority programs of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which the Philippines is chairing this year, are also part of the agenda.

Duterte and his official delegation will meet members of Thailand’s Filipino community, said to number over 16,000, according to the DFA.

South China Sea

Jose said there is a possibility that Duterte and Thai officials will discuss the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

ASEAN countries are working this year for the completion of a framework Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“We are not ruling in or ruling out discussion on the South China Sea. But if ever this will be discussed, I think it will be in the context of reaffirming our position, especially ASEAN’s position on our desire, primarily for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties) and for the early conclusion of the negotiations for the COC (Code of Conduct),” said Jose.

If Philippine officials bring up the dispute, Jose said it will likely be to reiterate “our commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and for our adherence to the rule of law.”

Duterte’s visits to Myanmar and Thailand are part of his “introductory” trips to ASEAN countries, partly in fulfillment of the Philippines’ role as ASEAN chairman this year.

These will be the first foreign trips to be attended by Enrique Manalo as Acting Foreign Secretary.

Joining Manalo in the official delegation for the trips are Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Isidro Lapeña, and Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.