UN rapporteur for Myanmar: Thailand taking hard look at situation

Ye Kaung Myint Maung for RFA Burmese
UN rapporteur for Myanmar: Thailand taking hard look at situation Tom Andrews, who serves as the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, speaks with Radio Free Asia (RFA), an affiliate of BenarNews, during an interview at RFA headquarters in Washington, March 13, 2024.
[Image from RFA video]

Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, is set to present his latest report on the strife-torn country to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Tuesday. 

Andrews, who spoke to BenarNews affiliate Radio Free Asia (RFA) last week before he was to head to the council’s headquarters in Geneva, will be giving an account of the situation in Myanmar since the junta announced in early February that it was activating conscription.

The Southeast Asian country has been mired in conflict since a military coup in February 2021 ousted a civilian government, and this move represents “the latest evidence of the desperation of the military junta,” Andrews told RFA Burmese. 

He said the junta was losing troops and territory and that’s the reason they activated compulsory military service – so they can replenish their troops – he said, adding, “[i]t’s not going to work.”

“First of all, we know that the lines before the Thai embassy, for example, of people trying to get visas to get out are significant,” he said in a reference to Thailand that shares a frontier with Myanmar.

“We know that people are looking for any and every way out of the country,” he added.

For Thailand, meanwhile, Andrews said, a lot is at stake, because it has a long border with Myanmar, including close to the conflict areas.

“And I think that Thailand is taking a hard look at this situation,” he said.

In this context, RFA asked Andrews in an interview about his participation in a seminar about Myanmar that was hosted by the parliament of Thailand in early March. 

Excerpts of Ye Kaung Myint Maung’s interview with Tom Andrews:

Radio Free Asia: You recently participated in a seminar about Myanmar hosted by the parliament of Thailand. Can you share some insight about that seminar?

Tom Andrews: I was very impressed. … It was a very thoughtful discussion of the issues facing the people of Myanmar, the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, and the fact that it was held, you know, at Parliament House was, I think, a very important sign and very practical to invite a number of people with different perspectives and ideas to bring those ideas forward and exchange them in an open forum.

I think it was a very positive thing. … And the chair of this committee that held this hearing was very thoughtful, looking to see how to build a much stronger position between Thailand and Myanmar and build for a future.

People fleeing fighting between the Myanmar military and ethnic armies shelter at the Thai-Myanmar border, on the Thai side of the Moei river, in Mae Sot district, Tak province, Thailand, April 7, 2023. [AFP]

RFA: Thailand has traditionally played a very crucial role in addressing the crisis in Myanmar. Now a new Thai government, they held this seminar. Do you see this as a positive development?

TA: I think that Thailand has a great deal at stake, probably more than most countries. That huge border that they have, the tremendous pressure on that border, people facing horrific conditions in these conflict areas means that Thailand has a great deal at stake. And I think that Thailand is taking a hard look at this situation.

And I think the fact that the parliament was open to this process of entertaining new ideas, holding a process where many views are presented, I think those were all very, very positive signs and hopefully will lay the groundwork for a much better, stronger future for both countries.

RFA: Another issue is the role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Many countries have said they will stick to ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar. But experts claim it is not working. What kind of change do you think ASEAN can bring? [The consensus points include ending violence, starting dialogue, providing humanitarian aid, appointing a special envoy, and an ASEAN envoy visiting Myanmar.]  

TA: Well, first of all, the five-point consensus was created in April of 2021, a few months after the coup by ASEAN to try to – through the principle of engagement and consensus – find common ground out of this crisis. … My recommendation to ASEAN is to enforce that five point consensus, hold accountable [junta leader] Min Aung Hlaing to that first point [ending violence] of the five-point consensus and make sure that discussion, engagement of any kind must begin by ending the violence… . It’s just got to be the bottom line.

RFA: What kind of consequences or punishment could ASEAN possibly bring in enforcing this five point consensus?

TA: This is a situation that the entire international community needs to work together on. And I think there’s three things that the junta needs to continue these atrocities. It needs money, it needs weapons, and it needs legitimacy. And I think that everything that we can do as an international community to deny them all three, we need to be doing. 

So, for example, with ASEAN: ASEAN no longer invites Min Aung Hlaing, the senior general, to those meetings of heads of state of ASEAN. … I think that should be extended to any and every meeting of ASEAN, that no one representing the military junta should be allowed to engage with ASEAN. … We also have to focus on accountability. We also have to make sure that they understand – that is, the junta understands – that it may take some time, but we are going to hold you responsible for these atrocities.


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