Thailand to use 'quiet diplomacy' to make Myanmar democratic
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Thailand pledged Thursday to help transform Myanmar into a democracy through quiet diplomacy, but said that change has to come from within and Western sanctions against its military-ruled neighbor would fail. (I hope Noppadon or his boss Thaksin talks to the U.S. like this (for their country, Thailand) when the U.S. and EU put up so many barriers and sanctions against Thailand since Sep 19, 2006 coup, instead of made a World tour and giving shit to his country. Yet, during U.S.-U.K. Iraq invasion, Thaksin has done nothing but agreed with them by sending Thai troops into Iraq. Yet again, don't for get to include the CIA secret prison in Thailand rumor in your considerations.)
Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama said, as a start, his country would help Myanmar organize a May constitutional referendum preceding elections, both of which he emphasized should be "inclusive and credible."
"Quietly though slowly, we aim to turn this burden of proximity into a pragmatic opportunity for the sake of the people of Myanmar, our next door neighbour," he said at a forum of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Speaking after talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, where Myanmar was a key subject, Noppadon said the issue should not be a stumbling block to relations between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"As things now stand, we should be frank the ASEAN-US partnership has been kept from developing to its full potential in no small part by the issue of Myanmar," said the foreign minister of the newly elected Thai government.
"In fact, this issue has unfortunately even spilled over into the discussion on Thai-US relations. My question is: is this worth it for both of us?."
Noppadon emphasized that imposing sanctions or putting pressure on Myanmar "would not work," saying that economic engagement with the state, as well as technical assistance and infrastructure development to it, could help lay the foundation for a successful democracy.
"As a friend, Thailand can give Myanmar neighborly advice and as a friend, we will be in better position to persuade them to see the merit of democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law," he said. (This is so funny. Respect for human rights? Somchai the lawyer is still missing!! and again democracy or capitalism?)
"Indeed, if Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines could be taken as examples, democratic change has to come from within and not from outside."
Noppadon also said that he had conveyed the concerns of the international community to Myanmar's ruling military junta during Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's visit to Yangon last week.
World powers condemned Myanmar's military general for their bloody crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests in September last year.
At least 31 people died in the unrest, according to the United Nations, although Human Rights Watch put the toll at more than 100. (Last year, the number of innocent died in the Southern unrest was more than 2,000)
Noppadon said he also informed Myanmar's military rulers of "our wish to see continued momentum towards democratization and national reconciliation, the need for credible and inclusive referendum and elections, and importance of Myanmar's continued cooperation with the United Nations.
"As a first step, the Myanmar authorities have been receptive to our offer to share Thailand's experiences on holding a national referendum for the constitution," he said. (We are in the conflict again due to current constitution's strong penalty for committed unlawful election activities)
The referendum is meant to pave the way for multiparty elections in 2010.
But pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party's sweeping victory in 1990 elections was not recognized by the military, is barred from participating in the vote under the newly drafted constitution because she had been married to a foreigner. (Noppadon has never mentioned about Aung San Suu Kyi. Looks like he doesn't care about the people who fights for democracy.)
The Nobel peace prize winner has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.
Noppadon stressed the political limitations in ASEAN, where member states cannot interfere in each other's internal affairs.
"That is a line we cannot cross but we (Thailand) will, as the new chairman of ASEAN, engage more actively with Myanmar. I am a pragmatist and optimist and hope that one day there would be change in Myanmar."
Thailand will take over this summer from Singapore as chairman of the 10-member ASEAN grouping, which also comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam.