Home Insider Thai PM to make his first foreign official visit to Myanmar

Thai PM to make his first foreign official visit to Myanmar

Thailand’s coup leader and premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha will visit Myan- mar on his first official overseas trip, an official said Friday, as the junta seeks to strengthen bilateral business and political ties. Prayut will travel to Myanmar “as soon as possible”, deputy foreign minister Don Pra- mudwinai told to Thai National media, say- ing the trip could take place possibly in early October.

He explained that Myanmar was chosen be- cause this neighbouring country holds the rotating chairmanship of Asean.Asean is im- portant for Thailand’s foreign affairs and all previous governments have given priority to the regional grouping. But, Asean has 10 members and the characteristics of each mem- ber’s relationship with Thailand is different. “The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Myanmar as his first foreign country because Myanmar currently chairs ASEAN,” Don said, referring to the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations of which Thailand is also a member.

Prayut is then expected to visit other ASEAN member states beginning with Malaysia, he added.

Thailand’s coup makers, meanwhile, have been chided by the United States and the European Union for grabbing power from an elected government in May, spurring the junta to boost relations with Asian neigh- bors instead.

First of all, Myanmar and Thailand share a very long border, on land and water, of some 2,401 kilometres. In fact, the boundary is 2,748 kilometres if 347 kilometres in the An- daman Sea is included.

There are plenty of problems along this border, and only 59 kilometres have been demarcated. There are many locations with overlapping claims. Border issues have been at the core of relations between Thailand and Myanmar for a long time. It is the home of many “grey” activities, as well as traffick- ing in narcotics, arms and people.Myanmar is also set to hold parliamentary elections next year.

Meanwhile, economic cooperation, notably over the Dawei project badly needs clear de- cisions on how to move on. Prime Minister Prayuth knew this issue very well since former Prime Minister Yingluck, whom he used to serve, talked with Myanmar leaders about this project many times. The key problem is how and where capital can be put in the project. It is now Prayuth’s decision to either to go on with the project or walk away from it.

A further aspect is beyond Prayuth’s control. The international community will look at his visit in light of how far democracy and rec- onciliation in Thailand and Myanmar can be moved forward.