As Koh Tao protests spread, foreign ministers call for calm
published : 29 Dec 2015 at 21:02
Even as protests grew over death sentences handed down to two Myanmar men for murdering two British backpackers on Koh Tao, foreign ministers from both countries said on Tuesday they didn’t want to see the demonstrations escalate to the point they affect diplomatic relations.
After speaking via telephone with Wunna Maung Lwin in Bangkok on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai reported that his Myanmar counterpart had expressed understanding that the Koh Tao case was not final and would continue through the appeals process.
Mr Don said the ministry was preparing translated summaries of the court's decision in Burmese and English and would furnish them to the Myanmar ministry to distribute to the public.
The telephone discussion came as the Thai embassy in Yangon announced that its consular section would remain closed for the entire week due to the "unexpected and prolonged demonstrations" that make it hard to access the entrance.
About 150-200 people gathered there today to submit a petition protesting the court ruling, dispersing after an embassy official accepted their letter.
"We do not believe justice was served by the Thai court. We are asking them to review the case,'' said Nay Myo Wai, a nationalist politician who supports the Buddhist nationalist group Ma Ba Tha, which led the protest.
"We intend to fight for justice for the two Myanmar men in Thailand,'' said U Pamaukka, a senior monk and Ma Ba Tha member.
Protesters display placard calling to boycott Thai products, right and centre, and a sign reads as "Release our people immediately", left, during a Koh Tao case protest rally in Yangon Tuesday. (AP photo)
Protesters threatened to call for a boycott of Thai goods if the courts refused to review the case, saying that the two men did not deserve the death sentence.
In Australia's capital city Canberra, about 35-40 Myanmar protesters also submitted petitions to the Thai embassy there after a rally that lasted an hour and ended at noon local time Tuesday.
On Monday, Malaysian police barred a group of Myanmar protesters from gathering at the Thai embassy in Kuala Lumpur and asked them to move to stage a protest at the Myanmar embassy instead.
Seventy-two Myanmar monks in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo also handed a protest letter to the Thai embassy there on Monday, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, acting deputy spokesman for PheuThai Party Anusorn Iamsa-ard lashed out at Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon for speculating that a political group in Thailand may be instigating protesters in an attempt to destabilise the government.
Mr Anusorn said the government should not use its so-called "information operations" to defame or discredit any group, as it would affect reconciliation efforts and a constructive political atmosphere in the country.
He said Pheu Thai had nothing to do with the protests in Myanmar or elsewhere.