Thaksin 'met with Malaysia's Anwar'
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Thaksin 'met with Malaysia's Anwar'

South, Myanmar 'were discussed'

Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, second from right, is in Phuket on April 30. (Photo: Patong Entertainment Association)
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, second from right, is in Phuket on April 30. (Photo: Patong Entertainment Association)

Paroled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra met Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during his trip to Phuket last week, sources say. Topics under discussion are believed to have included the unrest in the deep South as well as the fighting in Myanmar.

Thaksin, who is unofficially the de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, arrived in Phuket on April 29 and left on May 2.

He claimed the trip was a private leisure trip, but questions have been raised about its real purpose and whether it violated his parole conditions.

The sources said the southern unrest was believed to be among the topics under discussion because Mr Anwar has been keen to act as a mediator in peace talks between Thailand and southern insurgent groups since the Prayut Chan-o-cha government was in power.

Moreover, the fighting in Myanmar was also discussed during the meeting with Mr Anwar, the sources said, as Mr Anwar previously urged Thailand to get more involved in efforts to address the conflict.

Thaksin's earlier meetings with representatives of resistance groups during his trip to Chiang Mai on April 13 also fuelled speculation that Thaksin and Mr Anwar may have discussed the situation in Myanmar, the sources said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maris Sangiampongsa previously said Thaksin's talks with rebel groups in Myanmar were conducted on a personal level and were not part of the Thai government's policy towards its neighbour.

Mr Maris did not deny the meetings occurred. He said it was an internal matter for the Myanmar government, and the Thai government was not involved.

VOA Myanmar, citing sources close to Thaksin, reported on Monday that Thaksin met representatives of the Kachin National Organisation and National Unity Government to try to solve the armed conflict against the ruling junta.

This was followed by another meeting with the leader of the Shan State Reconstruction Council and the Shan State Army, according to VOA Myanmar.

The informal meetings took place after armed ethnic groups seized Myawaddy, a key trading post with Thailand opposite Mae Sot district in Tak.

Despite insisting he had no details of Thaksin's informal talks with these groups, Mr Maris claimed it was the Myanmar authorities who had asked Thaksin for help.

According to the Facebook page of Pat Hemasuk, an independent academic, it was Thaksin who sent his representatives to make an appointment with these groups for talks which took place during Thaksin's recent trip to Chiang Mai.

Wanwichit Boonprong, a lecturer at Rangsit University's faculty of political science, told the Bangkok Post that Thaksin's talks with rebel groups in Myanmar were a move to restore his reputation and boost the popularity of Pheu Thai and its leader Paetongtarn, his daughter.

However, Thaksin's move could create problems if it is not in sync with the Foreign Affairs Ministry's approach, Mr Wanwichit said.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, an expert in international relations and security affairs, echoed the view, saying that any initiative by Thaksin on the Myanmar issue should be in line with the formal framework of Asean's Five-Point Consensus, as agreed upon by Asean's leaders.

Commenting on whether Thaksin may have breached his parole conditions following reports of his talks with rebel groups in Myanmar, Sahakarn Petchnarin, director-general of the Department of Corrections, said the Department of Probation will look into the matter.

If it is not a severe violation, Thaksin will be given a warning, he said.

Rangsiman Rome, a Move Forward Party MP who chairs a House committee on state security and border affairs said Thaksin does not hold any government office and his move could cause confusion about Thailand's role in the Myanmar conflict.

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