APHR calls for ASEAN leaders not to fall for Myanmar junta’s blatant attempt at manipulation

APHR calls for ASEAN leaders not to fall for Myanmar junta’s blatant attempt at manipulation

Thailand’s outgoing foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, has confirmed making a secretive journey to Myanmar, where he met with the ostracised coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and visited the detained elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, just days before a key regional summit focusing on Myanmar’s turmoil.

Don confirmed the trip to reporters on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ meeting held in Jakarta on Wednesday but did not divulge details. He described his visit as “an approach of the friends of Myanmar, who would like to see a peaceful settlement.”

An independent Myanmar news outlet, Khit Thit, had earlier reported on Monday that Don arrived in Naypyidaw on a special military plane, had a meeting with Myanmar’s military council, including Min Aung Hlaing, and returned home on the same day.

The report, however, did not mention the visit to Aung San Suu Kyi, who was seized by the generals during the coup in February 2021 and has since been jailed following a series of closed-door trials widely condemned as a sham.

Don’s recent actions have sparked controversy as Thailand’s outgoing army-backed government appears to be making overtures towards the military junta despite their failure to adhere to the ASEAN five-point plan aimed at ending violence in Myanmar.

Don is known to have visited Naypyidaw previously in April, and last month, he organised a meeting to “re-engage” with the generals who have been barred from the ASEAN’s top summits due to their failure to implement the peace plan.

Thailand’s foreign ministry confirmed that Don’s latest trip took place on Sunday, during which he met Aung San Suu Kyi, now 78, for over an hour.

Don told the ministers in Jakarta that Aung San Suu Kyi was both physically and mentally healthy and had encouraged dialogue.

However, the military has consistently rejected all diplomatic requests to meet Aung San Suu Kyi over the past two years, despite this being a component of the five-point plan.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi emphasised the importance of ASEAN unity and expressed that “only a political solution will lead to a durable peace” during the summit on Wednesday. The group was reportedly working on a joint position on Myanmar in the afternoon.

Interestingly, Don’s visit was not reported in Myanmar’s official media.

Responding to Don’s actions, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Co-Chairperson Charles Santiago expressed concern, saying, “The outgoing Thai Foreign Minister’s actions once again demonstrate the current Thai regime’s insistence on undermining ASEAN unity and centrality in responding to the crisis in Myanmar.”

He also accused the Myanmar junta of acting in bad faith and urged ASEAN leaders not to fall for such blatant manipulation. Santiago called on ASEAN, particularly Indonesia as the chair, to refrain from any actions that distract from a human rights and humanitarian-focused agenda in Myanmar.

He ended by asserting the need for engaging with pro-democracy forces to ensure meaningful progress.

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