Will Thailand Be Able to Intervene in the Myanmar Issue?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 22 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 23, 2024

Will Thailand Be Able to Intervene in the Myanmar Issue?

Thailand’s Prime Minister, Srettha Thavisin, is prepared to intervene in Myanmar’s issues, according to his secretary, who revealed this to the Bangkok Post. The Prime Minister was scheduled to visit Mae Sot on April 23. However, news emerged that Thai Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Parnpree would be sent in his place.

Thailand shares a long border with Myanmar, spanning thousands of kilometers, and at least four ethnic armed groups are based in areas bordering Thailand. Similarly, China has numerous ethnic armed groups based in areas bordering Myanmar. The positions of Thailand and China are alike in these respects. However, a significant difference is that millions of Myanmar nationals live and work in Thailand, both legally and illegally. Additionally, unlike China, Thailand maintains close relations with Western countries that practice democratic systems to some extent. Furthermore, Myanmar opposition forces reside and take shelter in Thai territories, as the Thai government accepts political dissidents who are not armed activists. Consequently, many members of anti-military political organizations live in Thailand.

In China-Myanmar relations, China primarily seeks to protect its investments in Myanmar and maintain Myanmar’s stability. It treats the Myanmar government and military from a dominant position and often supports ethnic armed groups along the border when displeased with the Myanmar Military Council government. The concept of Chinese intervention can be seen clearly in Operation 1027, where many believed China supported and encouraged three ethnic armed groups attacking military council troops. When the operation reached a critical point, China intervened and facilitated a ceasefire with the ethnic armed groups along its border. This shows that China’s strength can influence some ethnic armed groups to a significant extent.

Thailand, on the other hand, does not wield as much influence as China. The Thai military has a close relationship with the Myanmar military, but the Thai government does not share the same stance as the Thai military on Myanmar issues.

Under these circumstances, Thailand aims to address the Myanmar issue to mitigate the influx of refugees crossing into Thailand from the border region and to prevent potential disruptions to border trade caused by the ongoing conflict in Myanmar. It is likely that the Thai government wants to avoid being perceived as supporting one side of Myanmar’s armed conflict and prefers to maintain close military relations without overstepping.

Thailand may aim to persuade the Myanmar military, but even General Prayuth’s previous civilian government was unable to achieve this. It is believed that the Thai government encouraged the Myanmar military to find a solution to the crisis through dialogue, release NLD leaders from detention, and seek a political solution. However, these efforts did not yield results. In July last year, Thailand’s former Foreign Minister was allowed to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but the military council did not seem to accept the political solutions proposed by Thailand. The meeting merely gave the former Thai government an opportunity over other diplomats and countries, but no significant outcomes emerged.

When armed clashes hit Thai border towns, when bullets land on Thai soil, and when thousands of refugees cross the border, Thailand’s security concerns will escalate. This situation will likely compel the Thai government to increase its efforts in urging the Myanmar military and the border-based ethnic armed groups to find a solution. Whether these efforts will yield results remains to be seen in the near future.

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