Thailand’s new special envoy has spoken out as an apologist for the Myanmar military by urging the international community not to “get stuck in cancel rhetoric” when dealing with the Burmese Junta that seized power 16 months ago. She spoke in support of ‘moving on’ from the past and towards a different style of engagement with the military leaders.
Pornpimol ‘Pauline’ Kanchanalak was speaking at an annual meeting of security and international affairs yesterday in Singapore. She is a senior advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Whilst other speakers about regional security were drawing attention to the atrocities, show trials, lack of governance and the lack of progress towards democracy or a new civilian government, Khun Pornpimol was inclined to take a more conciliatory approach.
“Condemnations, sanctions and ostracisation have reached diminishing returns”.
The Burmese military leadership has been shunned by the international community, and even by local Asean meetings where a general boycott has been in place since the Junta refused to take steps towards meeting Asean directives or meeting with the Asean special envoy.
Asean reached a five-point consensus during a summit in Indonesia in April 2021, calling for a “cessation of violence and constructive dialogue among all parties in Myanmar”.
Some 1,900 Burmese civilians have been killed during the Myanmar military’s brutal crackdown on its citizens following the early morning coup on February 1, 2021. More than 14,000 people have been arrested, including local and foreign journalists. 4 activists, including former members of the ruling NLD party, have been tried and sentenced to death.
Despite the Thai envoy’s general apologetic tone, other international speakers at the meeting pointed out their fears for progress in Myanmar. US State Department counsellor Derek Chollet was suspicious of the military discussing a general election next year.
“There is no chance the junta’s planned elections in August 2023 would be free and fair.”
“It can be an attempt to just manipulate the region, the international community.”
The UN special envoy for Myanmar, Noeleen Heyser, has also been prevented from entering the country since taking on the role in 2021. She fears that a corrupt poll could lead to even more unrest across the fractured nation.
The treatment, show trial and imprisonment of the vastly popular Aung San Suu Kyi has also raised resentment towards the Junta. Any election without her running as a candidate would add more mistrust of any planned poll.
Ms Heyser believed that if Burmese voters didn’t trust the election results it could be a trigger to even more unrest and “greater violence”.
Meanwhile Thailand’s special envoy, who reports directly to Thailand’s foreign minister Don Pramudwinnai, acknowledged concerns about the planned general election in 2023 but insisted that critics “must take the junta’s commitment to hold elections at face value”.
The Bangkok Post reports that Pornpimol Kanchanalak pleaded guilty in 2000 to charges of making illegal campaign donations to the US Democratic Party during the 1990s. The professional businesswoman and lobbyist was reportedly trying to gain better access and opportunities for Thai and Asian clients with the US administration at the time.