Political fragmentation within the ASEAN bloc makes it difficult to achieve a firm position on Myanmar.
Thailand’s military-backed rulers—who last seized power from an elected government in their country in 2014—share a long-established relationship with Myanmar’s junta and its leader, Min Aung Hlaing, complicating any moves to pressure the army into ending the violence.
Even as efforts to isolate Myanmar diplomatically gathered pace late last year, Thailand hosted Myanmar’s foreign minister.
“It was very disconcerting and kind of undermined the effort to put more pressure on Myanmar,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “It sent the wrong signal.”
Some analysts say Thailand’s position is nuanced, subject to instability and refugee flows along its border with Myanmar.
“Thailand does not want to see the collapse of Myanmar,” said Bangkok-based Kavi Chongkittavorn, an ASEAN expert. “Thailand would be the most affected by the ongoing quagmire. Bangkok has been using quiet diplomacy—not silent diplomacy—to engage the junta.”
Yet without a strong line by ASEAN, the violence will continue weakening the regional bloc, says Thitinan, suggesting “actionable threats of suspension” are among the tools Indonesia must consider using as ASEAN chair.
“If the Myanmar crisis does not improve, ASEAN will be further marginalized in the eyes of the international community,” he said.
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