Thai Foreign Ministry appoints special envoy for Myanmar issues


Beat ASEAN | Diplomacy | South East Asia

Pornpimol Kanchanalak’s appointment will ease pressure on the Foreign Ministry, but there are no signs that it marks a change in the country’s approach to the Burmese crisis.

Thailand has appointed its first special envoy for Myanmar, who will be responsible for representing the country at meetings and summits regarding the escalating crisis in the country. Pornpimol Kanchanalak’s appointment was made in a letter dated April 25 and signed by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

According to the letter of appointment, the content of which was published by Thai PBS, she will have five main responsibilities: “to lead and control inter-agency tasks within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”; coordinate activities outside the ministry and with the private sector; represent Thailand in national and international negotiations, meetings and seminars relating to Myanmar; report directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on key developments in the country; and to perform various duties and functions assigned by the ministry.

Don said on Tuesday that Pornpimol, an adviser to Don who reportedly accompanied him on a trip to Myanmar in November, was given the job in part because of her in-depth knowledge of the country, and would help lighten the workload of the ministry, the Bangkok Post reported. The appointment letter also referred to the fact that Myanmar is strategically important to Thailand in terms of geopolitics, economy and national security.

It makes sense for Thailand to take a more active role in resolving the conflicts that arose from the military takeover last February. For decades, Myanmar’s chronic civil strife has produced a steady stream of refugees across the two nations’ 2,416 kilometer long common border. Thailand is therefore the country most likely to be directly affected by the deterioration of the situation inside Myanmar, which has already been manifested by the thousands of civilians who have crossed the border to escape air strikes and to the junta’s ground offensives, not to mention the increased flow of illicit narcotics from conflict areas in Shan State.

However, the appointment of Pornpimol, which comes a year after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formulated its five-point consensus plan to end the conflict in Myanmar, does not seem to mark significant change in Thailand’s approach to the country’s problems.

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Since Myanmar’s military seized power, overthrew the elected National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and ushered in the current period of economic collapse and iron-fisted rule, Thailand has embraced a surprisingly smooth line, even by the standards of his usual country. pragmatic approach towards its western neighbour.

While maritime Southeast Asian nations, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, have pushed for ASEAN to take a tougher line with the military junta, which has pledged its support for consensus in five points while doing virtually nothing to implement it, Thailand preferred a more low-key diplomatic approach. He has remained silent in the face of the Burmese military’s brutal crackdown on anti-coup protesters and the destabilization of areas directly bordering Thailand.

As I noted earlier, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who also took power in a coup in 2014, is keen to avoid setting a standard that military interventions in politics are illegitimate. . There is also a close relationship between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Royal Thai Army, who have a long history of cooperating on several fronts, including to halt cross-border flows of illicit drugs and other contraband, and whose senior commanders are said to have close personal relationships.

It makes sense for Thailand to take a more active role in Myanmar, but even if it wants to pressure the junta to implement the five-point consensus, it’s hard to see Pornpimol being much more successful than the two officials who served in ASEAN. special envoy, who did little to convince the military junta to implement the five-point consensus. Clever envoys could make some differences around the edges, but real progress towards a resolution of the conflict will likely require a shift in the political balance of power within the country.


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