Police stand guard as they wait for protests against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 4 last year. (Reuters File photo)
SINGAPORE: The international community should not get “stuck in cancel rhetoric” when it comes to dealing with the military junta in Myanmar, says Thailand’s new special envoy to the country.
“Condemnations, sanctions, ostracisation … have reached diminishing returns,” Pornpimol Kanchanalak told participants at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual meeting of security and international affairs experts on Saturday in Singapore.
She was responding to comments made by other speakers who expressed little confidence that democratic norms can be restored in Myanmar anytime soon.
US State Department counsellor Derek Chollet said there was “no chance” the junta’s planned elections in August 2023 would be free and fair.
“I think there’s no chance it could be free and fair, and it can be an attempt to just manipulate the region, the international community,” he said.
Noeleen Heyzer, the UN special envoy for Myanmar — who has not been allowed to visit the country since she took up the role late last year — fears an illegitimate poll could cause further unrest.
She said that unless Myanmar citizens had faith the election would lead the country back to “proper civilian rule” and the will of the people would be respected, it could be a “trigger point for greater violence”.
Ms Pornpimol acknowledged concerns about the upcoming poll but said the international community must take the junta’s commitment to hold elections “at face value”.
Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in April announced the appointment of Ms Pornpimol, one of his advisers, to the new special envoy position.
The ministry said she would coordinate efforts when negotiating with the Myanmar government and would report directly to Mr Don.
Ms Pornpimol, a businesswoman and lobbyist with extensive experience in the United States, earned notoriety in 2000 after pleading guilty to making illegal campaign donations to the Democratic Party in the 1990s, reportedly to gain favour with the Clinton administration for Thai and Asian clients.
Myanmar has been in turmoil and its economy paralysed since the February 2021 coup that ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Her National League for Democracy Party won a landslide victory in November 2020 elections but the military alleged voter fraud to justify the coup.
Almost 2,000 civilians have been killed in the junta’s crackdown on dissent and more than 14,000 people have been arrested.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urged Asean countries to go back to the drawing board and set deadlines on the so-called five-point consensus reached in Jakarta in April 2021, which calls for a cessation of violence and “constructive dialogue” among all parties in Myanmar.
He said there had been no discussions about booting Myanmar out of the bloc.
Mr Chollet confirmed Washington “was not currently thinking about” supplying weapons to anti-coup fighters in Myanmar despite requests for support like that being given to Ukraine following the Russian invasion.