Thai FM Wants Engagement With MyanmarMar 20, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) — Thailand's new foreign minister said Thursday that sanctions favored by the United States and other powers are not spurring change in Myanmar and urged engagement with Myanmar's military leaders instead.
Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, who represents the first elected Thai government since a 2006 military coup, said he discussed Myanmar and the need for a greater U.S. role in Southeast Asia with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday.
The Bush administration favors a harsh sanctions policy against Myanmar's junta. After a violent crackdown by the junta in September against pro-democracy demonstrators, Western countries tightened sanctions against Myanmar, also called Burma, but Southeast Asian countries have done little to increase pressure. Thailand, Myanmar's neighbor to the west, is a major trading partner.
"Sanctions hardly work," Noppadon told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. "If you impose more sanctions, those who will suffer are ordinary people."
Speaking on the 175th anniversary of relations between the United States and Thailand, Noppadon said "true economic engagement" would help improve the lives of Myanmar's people and would allow those countries engaged with Myanmar to push for democracy and human rights changes.
"Democratic change has to come from within and not from outside," he said.
Last month, Thailand returned to an elected government as a Cabinet packed with politicians tied to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was sworn in by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej leads a coalition government assembled after his People's Power Party won the most parliamentary seats in a December election. The party, formed by Thaksin loyalists, is regarded as a vehicle for the former leader.
Thaksin was toppled by a Sept. 19, 2006, coup after months of demonstrations demanding that he step down because of alleged corruption and abuse of power.