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Decoding Thaksin’s letter of invitation to Myanmar’s ethnic groups

Written by World News

Even though there is no confirmation that the invitation letter sent to anti-junta ethnic groups in Myanmar by paroled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, offering himself as a mediator in the armed conflict in Myanmar, is an authentic draft, the last paragraph seems to give the impression that Thaksin wants it to be seen that he was invited to mediate.

The paragraph in question refers to Thaksin as a person who is “internationally praised and recognised as a mediator for peace in Myanmar”, according to Sunai Phasuk, Senior Researcher at Asia Division, Human Rights Watch.

In the meantime, former Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen launched a parallel effort, by approaching both the junta in Myanmar and former state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for peace talks.

According to a political expert who talked to Thai PBS under condition of anonymity, there could soon be a meeting between Thaksin and Hun Sen, potentially towards the end of this month.

The ethnic groups, however, are sceptical about Thaksin’s move, wondering what they would have to concede in exchange for peace, at a time when they feel that they have the upper hand on the battle field, said Sunai.

Several questions were raised among the ethnic groups, such as whether Thaksin’s move was intended to buy time for the military junta or was approved by the Thai government or ASEAN, said Sunai.

Good intentions by Thaksin and Hun Sen aside, Sunai says that their approaches lack key elements of international protocol and the parties in the conflict are not cooperating with them.

Move Forward party-list MP Rangsiman Rome, meanwhile, expressed concern that Thaksin’s unofficial move, made in his personal capacity, may cause problems in the future, because it lacked the government’s consent.

As Thaksin is an influential figure, however, he said that any deal that the former prime minister might have struck with the anti-junta ethnic groups could end up being binding on the government, while the government is yet to fully assess the situation in Myanmar.

The Myanmar issue is complicated and sensitive, said Rangsiman, adding that Thaksin’s peace talk efforts could backfire on the government’s long-term role in ASEAN or the United Nations, which has designated Australia as mediator role in Myanmar.

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