11 July 2024

Thailand has proposed what is known as “Friends of the Chair” to coordinate with all parties concerned in the crisis besetting Myanmar with an aim of reaching a negotiated peace settlement in the country.

The proposal, made by Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai at the ASEAN summit in Jakarta on Saturday, calls for the core group to comprise the current chairman of ASEAN, the ASEAN secretary general, a UN representative and two other ASEAN member countries.

At this juncture, the most critical task of ASEAN is to achieve a de-escalation of violence in Myanmar.  Such achievement will demonstrate ASEAN’s ability to effectively tackle the Myanmar issues within ASEAN itself,” said Don, who was the special envoy of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who skipped the summit in order to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic at home.

Don proposed that the top priority of the “Friends of the Chair”, which he described as a post-summit coordinating mechanism to help find a peace settlement, is to assist in a “de-escalation” of the ongoing violence in Myanmar to be followed by a delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance, discharge of political detainees and dialogue participation.  

Southeast Asian leaders met Myanmar’s top general and coup leader in an emergency summit in Indonesia Saturday, April 24, 2021. (Laily Rachev, Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)

The ASEAN leaders, including Myanmar military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, concluded their summit with a five-point consensus which calls for an immediate halt to violence in Myanmar and for all parties to exercise self-restraint. It also urges a constructive dialogue among all interested parties to find a peaceful solution in the interests of the Myanmar people.

They also seek the creation of an ASEAN special envoy to facilitate mediation and dialogue with the help of the ASEAN Secretary General while offering ASEAN’s humanitarian assistance to Myanmar.  They also propose a visit by the special envoy and a delegation to Myanmar to meet with all parties involved in the crisis.

In his summit statement, Don said the forum was the chance for ASEAN to prove that it deserves the respect of the international community as a coherent, cohesive, credible and effective regional grouping, that can take on untidy challenges judiciously and effectively.

Photo taken on August 29, 2018 of the Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing. (Photo by Thet AUNG / AFP)

It is our chance to assert our centrality, being “friend to all, enemy to none” to craft a constructive coalition and exercise diplomacy that leads to results on the ground, and not just negotiated statement,” he said.

Reflecting Thailand’s stand on the current situation in Myanmar, Don said it was incumbent upon ASEANto reach out to one another, not to isolate or alienate anyone, so we could join hand in solving the problems within our midst.

The ultimate aim is for Myanmar to once again be at peace with herself, so the livelihood of the Myanmar people is improved and they regain the economic bearingthat only comes when conflicts end, and peace returns to their country.  This is our chance to prove true the mantra of the Chair of ASEAN this year that together, “We care, we share, we prosper, he said.

Anti-coup protesters shout slogan with a banner reading ”Carry on revolution! We do not accept as the military slave,” in Kamayut township of Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, April 19, 2021. Anti-coup protesters kept public demonstrations going despite the threat of lethal violence from security forces. (AP Photo)

The Thai foreign minister said in dealing with the complex situation in Myanmar “ASEAN needs a new template.  We need to take into account the historical, social, and political context of the country, so we can choose the right pathway to mediate and mitigate the damage arising from the conflicts, not to aggravate them.

That pathway must not lead to more turmoil and an abyss.  It is convenient to condemn and to see everything in binary terms —either black or white, because it easily makes us feel good, without actually having to do good. But I would like to believe that ASEAN, with our fair share of our own respective difficult times, can do better than that,” he said.

Don also cautioned that trust is a necessary condition in resolving the Myanmar conflict.  “Trust is a commodity that once violated, difficult to regain. So, for ASEAN to be effective in managing mistrust in order to effectively facilitate the peaceful settlement of the Myanmar conflicts, trust must be established by, and among all concerned parties, so they partake in the resolution dialogue of their own volition,” he said.