Saturday, 30 September 2023

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Civil society groups slam Thailand’s unilateral moves in Myanmar crisis

BANGKOK, THAILAND — A group of civil society organizations has voiced strong disapproval over Thailand’s decision to host an ‘informal meeting’ concerning the ongoing Myanmar crisis.

Signatories of the statement include Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS).

The organizations released a joint statement questioning Thailand’s independent initiative, which operates outside the ASEAN framework. They also expressed concern about the potential impact this might have on the unity of ASEAN.

The group is skeptical of Thailand’s support for ASEAN’s efforts to resolve the crisis, given that the regional bloc has prohibited Myanmar’s junta leader and foreign minister from attending its summits since late 2021.

They argue that Thailand’s move implies ASEAN is not the primary forum for resolving the situation in Myanmar, a perception that could threaten ASEAN’s unity.

Thailand’s recent actions have brought into question its commitment, declared at the 2022 ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Cambodia, to advance dialogue and find a peaceful resolution to the Myanmar crisis.

One such approach has been the ‘Track 1.5’ dialogue, a series of informal meetings which began in March 2023. The dialogues aim to create channels of communication among stakeholders and foster mutual trust and confidence.

Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on June 18 that the country would host the third meeting in this series on June 19, with participation from government officials acting unofficially, along with academic members.

However, these meetings have been criticized for their exclusion of the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s elected civilian government, while inviting the Myanmar military junta. This exclusivity has drawn ire from the civil society organizations, led by FORUM-ASIA.

FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director, Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, expressed concern over this exclusive regional platform for bordering countries, lamenting the lack of representation for the voice of the Myanmar people.

The group condemns Thailand’s invitation to Myanmar’s military rulers, interpreting it as an endorsement of their brutal actions and undermining the long struggle of the Myanmar people for democracy, human rights, and justice. Indonesia’s Government, the current Chair of ASEAN 2023, and the Government of Malaysia have also publicly rejected Thailand’s unilateral initiative for its potential to harm ASEAN unity and worsen regional geopolitical tensions.

The group has called for the cancellation of the Track 1.5 dialogue and for an inclusive and meaningful consultation with all relevant stakeholders. They also urge for a tangible plan to halt the military junta’s violence and for the international community to rally behind the cause of justice and accountability for Myanmar.

More than 3,600 civilians have been killed in the Myanmar military’s crackdown since the coup in 2021, according to a local monitoring group, while the United Nations says more than one million people have been displaced by violence.

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