On Friday, the UN special envoy for Myanmar met with Thailand’s prime minister as part of her efforts to end the violence in Myanmar that erupted following a military takeover in February. The envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, told Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok that she hopes Thailand will find ways to work with Myanmar’s military to alleviate the unrest, according to a statement from the prime minister’s office.
A broad cross-section of Myanmar’s population has opposed the army’s seizure of power, and the junta has responded with a violent crackdown that has claimed hundreds of lives. The escalation of violence, combined with the junta’s failure to restore order, has raised concerns that the country will become a failed state, affecting neighboring Thailand and the entire region.
According to the statement, Prayuth told Schraner Burgener that his government is ready to listen and exchange information that could be beneficial. The two also discussed humanitarian assistance for affected people, including those fleeing across the border into Thailand for safety.
Prayuth, a former army commander who came to power by deposing an elected civilian government, is said to have a close relationship with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s military government.
Since April, the United Nations envoy has been based in Thailand. On April 24, she attended a special meeting of the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta, where she met with Min Aung Hlaing. Schraner Burgener has stated that she intends to stay in the region for the foreseeable future and to maintain close contact with ASEAN in order to support the “timely and comprehensive implementation” of its “five-point consensus” on the Myanmar crisis.
It demands an immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue between all parties involved, mediation of the dialogue by an ASEAN special envoy, the provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet with all parties involved. Min Aung Hlaing’s government has since stated that it will only consider the ASEAN agreement once stability has been restored.
While the junta’s use of lethal force against mass protests has reduced attendance at peaceful rallies in Myanmar’s cities and towns, civil unrest remains high. Some protesters have embraced armed self-defense, frequently using only air guns, single-shot hunting rifles, and homemade grenades and firebombs.
The junta declared martial law in Mindat township, in the western state of Chin, which borders India, on Thursday. The remote area has been one of the most militant in terms of armed resistance to security forces, which have suffered casualties in almost daily clashes.
Last week, a shadow National Unity Government formed by opponents of the army’s rule announced the formation of a “People’s Defense Force” to consolidate resistance to the military takeover.
In addition to pro-democracy protests, there has been an increase in fighting in border areas between military and ethnic guerrilla armies that have declared their support for the pro-democracy movement. Tens of thousands of villagers have been forced to flee their homes in Karen state, close to the Thai border, and clashes have also occurred in Kachin state in the north.