Burmese pro-democracy activists have welcomed the stated policy
approach by the new Thai government and its call for political change
in Burma ahead of Burma's general elections, scheduled for 2010. The Thai Government is also looking
to other South East Asian nations to be more active in calling for
reform in the military ruled country.
The new Thai
Government's policy stance on Burma was set out in a key address by the
prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva, this week and his warnings about the
political situation in Burma have wider ramifications for the whole
Mr Abhisit, in an address to foreign correspondents this
week, said the government would look to encourage reform in Burma, also
known as Myanmar, through a process of "flexible engagement".
flexible engagement policy, adopted by the then-foreign minister Surin
Pitsuwan, now secretary-general of the Association of South East Asian
Nations (ASEAN), called for more open dialogue on issues such as human
"ASEAN to be strong it has to have the credibility and
respect from the international community," he said. "So what's
happening in Myanmar clearly affects the rest of the region - and I
would just point out that it's time for change. As far as we are
concerned we need to get ASEAN to become more proactive - it's not easy
but I've seen changes and I've seen progress. "
Under the former
Thai governments led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, from 2001
until 2006, priority was given to Thailand's economic and business ties
with Burma. Under a policy of "constructive engagement" Thailand and
ASEAN had adopted a more low key diplomatic approach in its dealing
Naing Aung, a former Burmese student leader and a
civic group, the Network for Democracy and Development, welcomed the
current Thai government's new move to place greater emphasis on human
rights issues and political reform.
"Thailand's new government
will be standing on the human rights and then more on the democratic
principal," he said. "But in terms of making pressure if they are going
through ASEAN it will still be difficult because ASEAN as a whole, they
still have a policy of non-interference."
spokeswoman for the Alternative ASEAN network on Burma, said the Thai
government policy also needed to be backed by calls for the release of
political prisoners. Stothardt said Thailand, as the current chair of
ASEAN, had a role to play to promote political reform. An ASEAN leaders
summit is due to take place in late February in Thailand.
we need to see really from the other ASEAN governments - including the
new Thai government - is sufficient political will to deal with this
problem once and for all," she said. "ASEAN needs to realize that this
regime has no respect for polite diplomacy - this regime will only
respect ASEAN when ASEAN shows that it is determined."
military government has said its road map to democracy and general
elections in 2010 needs the political steps the government is taking.
But many analysts expect the military to still retain considerable
influence in the new parliament, backed by a constitution seen as
favoring the military.
Burma's military has been in power since
1962, with the current government ruling the country since 1988. It
ignored the last election result in 1990, won in a landslide by the
party spearheaded by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains
under house arrest.