DIPLOMACY – Thailand backs ‘Burma reform’

Published: 13/01/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: News
Thailand supports a change in the way Burma is governed but it advocates a different means of achieving this than that promoted by Western nations, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday. In his first public comments on Burma since taking office last month, Mr Abhisit said Thailand’s proximity to Burma meant any push for reform had to be handled differently than simply imposing sanctions.

The prime minister was speaking after Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya held a meeting with Burmese Deputy Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu to discuss bilateral relations.

”The goals of Western countries and the countries of this region for Burma are not different _ we all want to see some changes,” Mr Abhisit said.

”But our methods may differ because of two main reasons: cultural differences and the distance of the countries.

Those who are far away may use certain measures while those who are neighbours have to use other measures.”

Mr Abhisit did not comment on what steps Thailand might take to push for change in Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962 and which has long held the chief opposition figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.

The United States and Europe have imposed economic sanctions on the regime, but the impact has been weakened by nations such as Thailand and China spending billions of dollars to secure a share of Burma’s rich energy resources.

Asian countries advocate a more diplomatic approach, championing a process of ”constructive engagement” with the ruling junta.

Mr Kasit said yesterday the Foreign Ministry would coordinate donations to help Burma renovate old temples damaged by Cyclone Nargis.

”The Burmese government wants the international community to help renovate its temples damaged by the cyclone.

Thailand is ready to act as the coordinating centre for donations to help it,” Mr Kasit said after talks with the Burmese deputy minister.

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