Sat Oct 13, 2007 7:43am BST
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s army-appointed government will take no action against Myanmar’s junta for its bloody crackdown on democracy protests as it lacks the moral authority, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said on Saturday.
Surayud, a former army chief who was installed after last year’s military coup, said any action by an interim government in Bangkok could also create headaches for any successor that emerged after a December 23 general election.
“As a Buddhist country, we disagreed with the violence dealt out by the Myanmar government, especially against the monks,” Surayud said in a weekly television address.
“But if we do anything that will cause bad feelings with our neighbour, that will be problematic for the new elected government,” he said. “My government, therefore, is very careful on this issue.”
“I think we could pressure them more if we are not an appointed government,” he said, adding that Thailand continued to stand by the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) principle of “constructive engagement” with the generals.
ASEAN is one of the few international groups to admit the former Burma as a member, but was moved to official “revulsion” at last month’s crackdown on monks and civilian protesters in which at least 10 people were killed.
ASEAN’s attempts in the last 10 years to coax the recalcitrant generals into some form of democratic reform have had as little success as the sanctions favoured by the United States and Europe.
U.N. ENVOY IN REGION
Despite Surayud’s admission, Thailand remains one of the few countries with any sort of lever on the junta, mainly because it buys around $2 billion (1 billion pounds) of natural gas every year from its neighbour — nearly half of all Myanmar’s export earnings.
China and India, which also have their eyes on Myanmar’s huge energy reserves, are the other two significant players, although nobody knows for sure how much influence they wield over a regime that appears to revel in isolation and notoriety.
In a reflection of Thailand’s potentially key role in encouraging talks between the generals and opposition, U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is making Bangkok his first port of call in a regional diplomatic tour starting this weekend.
He is due to meet Surayud and Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram on Monday, before continuing round the region and — hopefully — finishing up in Myanmar before the end of the month.
“I will go down to Myanmar as often as need be but it is up to the junta and the opposition there,” Gambari told Singapore’s Straits Times, saying his two short meetings two weeks ago with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi gave cause for optimism.
“She seemed to be in favour of a dialogue provided that there are clear timelines and it was serious,” he told the paper. “She appeared to be a lot more receptive to dialogue now than she was before.”
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