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Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai’s decision to push through with “informal” meetings with the illegal Myanmar military junta despite widespread criticism and condemnation is a betrayal of the Myanmar people and an affront to ASEAN unity, Southeast Asian lawmakers said today (19 June).

Don Pramudwinai, Thailand's acting Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (File photo)

“The Thai government’s determination to hold these meetings, despite receiving rejections from the ASEAN chair, Indonesia, as well as Singapore and Malaysia, demonstrates its arrogant disregard  for the unity of ASEAN, the human rights of the people of Myanmar, and even the will of its own citizens,” ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Co-chair Charles Santiago said today. “The current Thai government was overwhelmingly defeated in the recent general election and no longer has a mandate from the people; initiating such talks in spite of this is a slap in the face of the Thai voters.”

According to leaked documents, Pramudwinai sent a letter on 14 June  inviting other ASEAN foreign ministers to an “informal discussion” on 18-19 June, with the aim of “fully [re-engaging] with Myanmar at the leaders’ level”. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi replied to the letter rejecting the invitation on 15 June, while the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement to the same effect on 18 June. Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a press conference during his visit to the United States on 17 June that it was “premature to re-engage with the junta at a summit level or even at a foreign minister level.” The Philippines has yet to release an official statement but reportedly will not attend.

Despite this, Pramudiwinai has insisted that the talks will go ahead on 19 June and the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that high-level representatives from Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, China, Brunei and Vietnam have confirmed their attendance. This meeting follows a previous “track 1.5 meeting” that was held in Thailand in March and was attended by Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam along with China, India, Bangladesh and Japan. 

“We are dismayed that Thailand and other countries are still willing to engage with the murderous Myanmar junta without any attempt to hold it accountable, despite the military’s continued atrocities that have already resulted in the deaths of thousands of its own people. The ‘Track 1.5’ meetings also weaken ASEAN’s credibility on their ability to resolve the many crises unfolding in Myanmar,” said Santiago. 

“Indonesia as ASEAN chair, as well as the other ASEAN member states, must not let this meeting go unanswered: there must be an inquiry into Thailand’s blatant disregard and disrespect of the current Chair. While we appreciate their rejection of this ill-conceived meeting, it cannot stop there. ASEAN must work together to hold the military junta accountable, including by reforming the failed Five-Point Consensus which has yet to yield any results since its adoption in April 2021,” said Santiago.

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