Saturday, April 13, 2024
27 C
Brunei Town

Key ASEAN members skip Myanmar talks amid criticism

CNA – Thailand’s caretaker government hosted the foreign minister of Myanmar’s ruling junta at informal regional peace talks yesterday but key Southeast Asian counterparts were staying away from the meeting that has drawn sharp criticism.

Only Cambodia attended the talks.

Myanmar’s generals have been barred for nearly two years from senior-level meetings of the ASEAN for failing to honour an agreement to start talks with opponents linked to the ousted civilian government that had been led by now-jailed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

But Thailand, whose prime minister himself first took power in a military coup, invited Myanmar’s junta-appointed Foreign Minister Than Swe to the talks along with other foreign ministers in the 10-member ASEAN bloc, two sources with knowledge of the meeting told a news agency.

Myanmar’s junta spokesman could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Thailand’s Foreign Ministry was tight-lipped about the hastily called two-day gathering in the resort town of Pattaya, for which outgoing Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai sent invitation letters just four days before its planned start.

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. PHOTO: CNA

Foreign Ministry deputy spokesperson Natapanu Nopakun said yesterday morning he had “no information” on the meeting.

Myanmar has been roiled by violence since a February 1, 2021 coup, with the military battling on multiple fronts to try to crush an armed pro-democracy resistance movement formed in response to the crackdown. The junta says it is fighting terrorists.

Critics of Thailand’s initiative say it risks legitimising Myanmar’s military government and is inappropriate because it is outside the official ASEAN peace initiative, known as the “five-point consensus”.

Others questioned why Thailand called the talks now, when it is expected to have a new government in August after the pro-military coalition was soundly beaten in May 16 elections by progressive and populist parties.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn was to attend the meeting, his government said in a statement on Friday.

Other ASEAN members have declined Thailand’s invitation, including this year’s chair, Indonesia, as well Singapore, whose foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said on Friday “it would be premature to re-engage with the junta at a summit level or even at a foreign minister level”.