Dealing with Myanmar
text size

Dealing with Myanmar

As the civil war between Myanmar junta forces and ethnic rebel groups builds, Thailand will be a focal point for providing humanitarian support to large numbers of refugees expected to flee across the border. Thailand -- as an Asean member and Myanmar neighbour -- is also expected to play a role in fostering negotiations and helping Myanmar return to peace.

Before that, the Srettha government must ensure its diplomatic policies and systems for humanitarian support are fair, respected and transparent. Without neutrality, Thailand risks being dragged into a highly complex internal political situation.

The latest news over the weekend about chartered aircraft from Myanmar landing at Mae Sot airport in Tak province shows that the Thai government might lack the ability to handle such tough tasks. Rumours have reportedly gained ground that the Myanmar aircraft was being used to mobilise military personnel, supplies, or even money back to Myanmar.

Critics and lawmakers from the opposition party have criticised the government for mishandling the situation and making Thailand's international image suffer. It turned out that the aircraft was permitted by the Thai government to evacuate Myanmar officials and their dependents who fled from the border town of Myawaddy after rebel groups seized control of it. Despite the government trying to clear the air about the matter, local people still have questions over what was in the plane's cargo. Such doubts stem from the Thai government's policy with the Myanmar government in the past.

The Prayut government had close ties with Snr Gen Min Huang Lai and the Myanmar military. A few months after the coup in February of 2021, the Thai military reportedly gave food to the Myanmar military (both armies also conducted joint border patrols before the coup).

The Thai military two years ago was likewise criticised for keeping quiet when Myanmar fighter jets flew over Thai territory after dropping bombs on rebel strongholds along the Thai border.

Human rights groups also raised concerns that the Thai armed forces' policy of sending back refugees might put anti-government activists in danger. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and Defence Minister Sutin Klungsang must ensure our soldiers play a neutral role.

To deal with an increasingly unstable situation, Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanathabutr, a former National Security Council member, has urged the government to set up a special centre and public relations team to communicate with the public and the international community about Myanmar. He has also urged the government to set up a special centre close to the border to monitor refugees and record their profiles.

The Srettha government is facing perhaps its toughest test in handling the situation in Myanmar, which includes the need to decouple links between the Thai military and the Tatmadaw. The last thing the kingdom needs is for it to be embroiled in Myanmar's internal politics. The government will also need to oversee the aid given to those fleeing Myanmar to Thailand while also being aware of the rise of illicit trade -- narcotics, illegal betting and human trafficking. The Thai government must be aware that foreign countries are also involved in supporting certain ethnic groups.

Lastly, the Thai government must be a good and sincere neighbour. All policies and efforts from Thailand must reflect the Thai people's wish -- to see peace return to Myanmar.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?