Friday, 23 April 2021
In an online address on April 22, Pita Limjaroenrat, a party-list MP and the Leader of the Move Forward Party, laid out his party’s vision for how ASEAN should respond to the crisis in Myanmar, while sending a clear message to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in the lead up to Thailand’s participation in the upcoming ASEAN Leaders Summit in Jakarta on April 24.
“The world has watched, in horror, the events that have unfolded in Myanmar,” decried Mr. Pita, who remarked that over 700 civilians have been brutally murdered—50 of whom are children and one was as young as seven—and thousands have been detained or forced to disappear. The MFP leader sees this as a systematic campaign of heinous crimes waged by the Tatmadaw as it seeks to terrorize the people of Myanmar into submission.
“If nothing is done, thousands more could be slaughtered, hundreds of thousands could be displaced, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis would disrupt the entire region.” he added.
Mr. Pita’s address underlined the significance of regional stability and human rights protection to the foundation of ASEAN. He alluded to ASEAN’s founding document, the Bangkok Declaration, which was signed in 1967 and calls for the protection of liberty and regional stability through international laws and principles. Additionally, he emphasized that the ASEAN Charter, the regional bloc’s governing document, enshrined the protection of human rights as one of ASEAN’s defining values.
Furthermore, Mr. Pita believes Southeast Asians should be proud of ASEAN’s history of mediating conflicts and providing forums for adversaries to work towards a peaceful solution. Given this, he sees the crisis in Myanmar as an important test to ASEAN’s values and principles.
On the occasion of the Special ASEAN Summit to be held on the 24th of April in Jakarta, Mr. Pita, as the leader of the Move Forward Party, called on ASEAN leaders to establish an ASEAN-led peace process to put an end to senseless civilian deaths and resume the democratization process in Myanmar. To achieve this, Mr. Pita stresses the need for ASEAN to consider adopting appropriate mechanisms at its disposal whether it is in the form of ASEAN Troika, the appointment of an ASEAN Special Envoy, Friends of the Chair, and other forms of mediation efforts.
Mr. Pita and the Move Forward Party strongly believe it is a moral imperative that the peace process strives for Myanmar’s return to normalcy, in which the rights, liberty, livelihood, and human dignity of the people of Myanmar are upheld. ASEAN must call for the immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities as well as the release of all political prisoners. Mr. Pita said he believed this is the bare minimum that the people of ASEAN should demand from ASEAN leaders as a tangible outcome of this Special Summit.
Mr. Pita also affirmed that ASEAN leaders must not allow the Special Summit to be used to lend recognition and legitimacy to the military junta. He stressed that a political solution could only be achieved through an inclusive process in which stakeholders such as representatives from the National League for Democracy (NLD), the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH) as well as from ethnic groups are present to engage with each other.
Moreover, to retain ASEAN Centrality amidst this crisis, Mr. Pita urged ASEAN to call upon the Security Council to act in accordance with its Chapter VI powers and establish a fact-finding mission on the situation in Myanmar. Then, to mitigate the ongoing humanitarian crisis, Mr. Pita appealed to ASEAN leaders in favor of dispatching a needs assessment team to evaluate the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, while demanding the Tatmadaw to grant unhindered access to humanitarian aid to all areas of the country.
Mr. Pita added that Thailand, as a close neighbor of Myanmar and as a founding member of ASEAN, should play a proactive role to mediate the situation. However, the Thai leadership under General Prayut, under the watchful eyes of the international community, has time and time again failed to demonstrate that it has the moral rectitude to act in the best interests of both the Thai people and the people of Myanmar during these darkest times.
Finally, in concluding his remarks, Mr. Pita sent a clear message for the Thai government: “This is a high time for the Prayut government to start acting out of enlightened self-interest by showing the people of Myanmar that Thailand is their true friend, and not a comrade-in-arms of the Tatmadaw.”