Thailand hosts Myanmar junta figures in talks, key ASEAN nations skip

Thailand hosts Myanmar junta figures in talks, key ASEAN nations skip

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar citizens who live in Thailand, hold a portrait of former Myanmar state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi as they protest against the execution of pro-democracy activists, at Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand July 26, 2022.

REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo

Those who declined attending the talks hosted by Thailand were Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore – the Myanmar junta's most vocal critics in the ASEAN

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand hosted regional talks on Thursday, December 22, to discuss the crisis in army-run Myanmar including rare international appearances by junta ministers, but several key members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) did not attend despite invitations.

Foreign ministers of Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia and Vietnam’s deputy foreign minister joined the talks hosted by Thailand’s foreign minister, according to Thai foreign ministry spokeswoman Kanchana Patarachoke.

There were no representatives from Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore – the junta’s most vocal critics in the ASEAN.

No concrete results were reported from the discussions, which Kanchana said focused on humanitarian assistance and finding ways to implement an ASEAN peace plan known as the Five-Point Consensus.

The 10-member grouping has seen internal discord over whether to engage with the military that seized power on February 1 last year in a coup that derailed a decade of democratic progress and plunged Myanmar into conflict and economic ruin.

Myanmar’s generals have been barred from high-profile ASEAN gatherings for failing to honor last year’s promises to start talks with opponents linked to the ousted civilian government led by jailed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Informal consultation

Thailand’s Kanchana said Thursday’s meeting was held on the sidelines of Thai-Myanmar bilateral talks in Bangkok.

“The consultation was a non-ASEAN meeting but intended to complement ASEAN’s ongoing collective efforts to find a peaceful political resolution,” Kanchana said in a statement.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin attended along with Kan Zaw, minister for investment and foreign economic relations, and Ko Ko Hlaing, minister for international cooperation, Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

It said the delegation “explained the terrorist activities” of opposition People’s Defense Forces (PDF) militias linked to the ousted National Unity Government (NUG).

“Therefore, the Myanmar delegation urged ASEAN member states to denounce terrorist activities of NUG, PDF and to discourage any moral, material and financial support for the terrorist organizations,” it said.

Myanmar’s ties with ASEAN have been strained over its refusal to halt offensives against a resistance forces.

ASEAN, which makes decisions by consensus, agreed last month to keep sidelining Myanmar generals until they comply with its stalled peace plan, which remains the only diplomatic process in play.

UN resolution adopted

The meeting came a day after the UN Security Council adopted its first resolution on Myanmar in 74 years, demanding an end to violence and for the junta to free all political detainees. Myanmar’s junta did not answer calls seeking comment.

Malaysia confirmed it would not attend the Bangkok meeting but did not provide a reason. The Philippines said its foreign minister would also not join, without elaborating.

The foreign ministries of Indonesia, the 2023 ASEAN chair, and Vietnam said their top diplomats were occupied with an official visit to Jakarta by Vietnam’s president.

Singapore’s foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

However, a diplomatic source who declined to be identified read to Reuters what they said was a letter signed by Singapore’s foreign minister to the host, which objected to the meeting as ASEAN had agreed to exclude the junta from such events. Reuters could not verify the letter’s content.

“Any meeting convened under ASEAN, formal or informal, should not deviate from this decision,” it said, according to the source. –

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