Saturday, 30 September 2023

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Myanmar FM to attend informal crisis talks in Bangkok

Myanmar on Saturday confirmed the country’s foreign minister would attend controversial “informal talks” in Bangkok on the coup-hit country’s political crisis, as Singapore warned that conditions were not yet right for ASEAN to re-engage the military junta at high-level meetings.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a February 2021 military coup that ousted democratically elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from office.

More than 3,600 civilians have been killed in the military’s crackdown since the putsch, according to a local monitoring group, while the United Nations says more than one million people have been displaced by violence.

Late Saturday, the junta’s information team confirmed that Myanmar Foreign Minister Than Shwe “was invited to a meeting in Thailand and he would go”.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar as a member, has led so far fruitless diplomatic efforts to curb the bloodshed amid violent clashes between the military and anti-coup fighters.

The 10-country bloc barred Myanmar’s junta from top-level summits over its failure to implement a five-point peace plan agreed upon two years ago.

Last week, Thailand’s caretaker government proposed to host a two-day informal meeting of some ASEAN foreign ministers starting Sunday.

“In consideration of several pressing factors, the time for dialogues is sooner rather than later,” Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai wrote in an invitation letter, seen by AFP.

Speaking in Washington on Friday, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan raised concerns about the talks.

“We believe it would be premature to re-engage with the junta at a summit level or even at a foreign minister level,” Balakrishnan said.

A Southeast Asian official familiar with the matter told AFP on condition of anonymity that Malaysia would not attend the proposed meeting.

But the Cambodian government said its foreign minister will attend.

ASEAN’s last leaders’ summit, held in May, ended without any significant progress on the peace plan, with Indonesian President Joko Widodo warning that the bloc risks becoming irrelevant.


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