Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thailand reacts to Burma anger

(DVB)–Thailand insisted it had its neighbour’s best intentions at heart following Burma’s outrage at a statement released by Thailand that expressed “grave concern” over the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Sunday, the state mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper published an article rejecting the statement, made on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Thailand is the current chair.

The statement, it said, was “not in conformity with ASEAN practice, incorrect in facts, [and] interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar”.

Burma also said that “consensus” on the statement should have been reached before it was issued.

It was a rare rebuke for Thailand, who maintains close ties to Burma’s ruling junta, and has repeatedly shunned pressure to implement sanctions on Burma.

Thailand reacted today by issuing a press release emphasizing that it was an ASEAN Chairman’s statement, rather than a Joint ASEAN Statement, and therefore did not require joint drafting by ASEAN leaders.

“[It] was issued with the best of intentions towards Myanmar and reflects the desire for the process of national reconciliation in Myanmar to move forward on the basis of inclusiveness, with the participation of all sectors of society,” the press release said.

The ASEAN bloc, whose members maintain a policy of non-interference in external affairs, has been criticised for not taking stronger action on the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thai MP, Kraisak Choonhavan, who also heads the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus, said yesterday that the situation in Burma, in light of Suu Kyi’s trial, now justified foreign intervention.

“It would be very difficult to arrive at that, but now there is a movement of those who want to protect the people of Burma by bringing the International Criminal Court (ICC) into play,” he said.

“If they [ICC] are in their right mind and they go through the facts, there is no denying that [junta leader] Than Shwe and his cronies should be persecuted at the ICC.”

Reporting by Francis Wade

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