Friday, February 27, 2009

Thai PM Calls for All Sides to Participate in Burmese Elections

The Irrawaddy News

CHA-AM, Thailand — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he has asked Burmese Premier Gen Thein Sein to encourage the opposition to compete in the forthcoming general election in Burma and expressed optimism that the military junta was making progress in its steps toward democracy.

Speaking to reporters at the 14th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on Friday, the Thai premier said he had asked his Burmese counterpart “to encourage all sides to participate in the 2010 Burmese elections” and said that he could see “clear progress” in the military junta’s steps toward holding democratic elections next year.

Abhisit said he had held bilateral talks with the heads of state of Burma, Cambodia and Malaysia that day.

“We hope to see progress [in Burma]. We hope to see involvement, particularly from the UN. I also said that the process should be as inclusive as possible,” he told assembled reporters.

He added that Thailand’s policy toward Burma was “clearly one of engagement.”

However, the Thai prime minster, like most other delegates at the summit, found that his press conference became driven by reporters toward the sticky issue of Rohingya boatpeople.

Calling the Rohingya crisis a “complex and complicated issue;” Abhisit said Thailand will deport the migrants if it could ascertain their point of origin. In response to a question by The Irrawaddy regarding boatpeople whose point of origin could not be identified, the Thai premier was not specific, but reiterated that Thai policy was “to promote cooperation and consultation in the region, so that the problem will not recur.”

Five or six countries are involved in the Rohingya issue, he said, adding that the matter would be dealt with again at a Bali Process meeting iin Indonesia in April.

At an earlier press conference, the secretary-general of Asean, Surin Pitsuwan, said that the Burmese Prime Minister, Thein Sein, had confirmed a one-year extension (until July 2010) of the Tripartite Core Group (TCG) for rebuilding and humanitarian projects in areas affected by Cyclone Nargis.

The TCG proposed a three-year rehabilitation plan for the cyclone victims at a conference in Bangkok on February 9.

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