Wednesday, 29 March, 2023

Malaysian PM urges Thailand’s role in ending Myanmar crisis

BANGKOK: Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim asked Thailand on Thursday to play a bigger role in bringing stability to coup-hit Myanmar, as diplomatic efforts to bring peace there flounder, reports AFP.

Anwar held his first bilateral meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha since the former won office late last year.

The Thai government has faced international criticism for maintaining normalised ties with Myanmar's junta and for downplaying alleged atrocities in its neighbour since the country was plunged into chaos following a putsch two years ago.

There's very little we can do except to continue this so-called constructive engagement with the Myanmar junta, Anwar told reporters.

But I think you are placed, prime minister, in a better position to express many of our concerns.

Thousands of the mostly Muslim ethnic Rohingya, heavily persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, have risked their lives on perilous boat journeys in an attempt to reach Malaysia or Indonesia in recent years.

Nearly one million Rohingya live in camps near Bangladesh's border with Myanmar, after fleeing a brutal military crackdown in 2017.

Anwar said the close to 200,000 refugees his country was hosting were a heavy burden.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led so-far fruitless diplomatic efforts to resolve the turmoil in Myanmar, where armed People's Defence Forces have staged anti-coup attacks since the military takeover.

There has been little progress on a five-point consensus agreed with the junta in April 2021, which calls for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.

Late last year, Thailand raised eyebrows when it hosted Myanmar's top diplomat at informal talks that included Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, but excluded other ASEAN countries that had been vocal critics of the junta.

It was the first time in more than a year that Myanmar's foreign minister met an ASEAN foreign minister grouping in person, after the bloc snubbed the junta from top-level summits over a lack of progress on ASEAN's peace plan.

Anwar said ASEAN needed coherent, concerted action.

At talks in Jakarta last week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged ASEAN countries to show unity on implementing the peace plan.