Friday, March 21, 2008

Burma disagreement

By Thanida Tansubhapol

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama has told the United States its sanctions against Burma will achieve nothing and it should be more engaged in multi-national talks instead.

Mr Noppadon raised the issue with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during his visit to Washington to mark the 175th year of Thailand-US bilateral relations.

He quoted Ms Rice as saying that the US would continue putting pressure on Burma, while Thailand told the US that sanctions would be fruitless and it should have more dialogue with the junta in Rangoon.

He said the US still believes its policy of sanctions will force Burma to change. But Thailand does not agree with the US policy on Burma as there would be many consequences if it did, such as drugs, infectious diseases and illegal labourers since Thailand shares a border with Burma.

"We have to help Burma and engage them," Mr Noppadon told reporters in Washington.

He has proposed holding multi-party talks with neighbouring and concerned countries, including China and India, in an attempt to persuade Burma to shift towards better development.

He said he would like many countries, including China and India, to be involved in the talks, just like the six-party negotiations over North Korea.

"China and India should be invited to these talks as both countries can play a constructive role persuading Burma to show better development," Mr Noppadon said.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej visited Burma last week and was told the Burmese government was confident that its constitution referendum in May would be credible and would allow all parties to be involved, said the minister.

Meanwhile, Mr Noppadon asked Washington to help restore Thailand's relationship with Saudi Arabia as the two countries have close ties.

Relations between Bangkok and Riyadh soured almost 20 years ago after the murder of Saudi diplomats, the disappearance of Saudi businessmen and the theft of a large amount of jewellery from a royal palace.

"I am hopeful that the US will be able to help us since they are a good ally of Saudi Arabia," he said.

Mr Noppadon also asked the US to play a bigger role in the Asian region as the US hoped Thailand would have an important role in Asean. Thailand will host the Asean meetings for one and a half years starting in July.

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