Blinken vows to keep US pressure on Myanmar regime

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai in Bangkok on July 10, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday (July 10) vowed to continue pressing the Myanmar junta to cease its violent repression and return to a path of democracy.

“We will continue to look for ways that we can – and other countries can – effectively put pressure on the regime to move back to the democratic path, and we’re doing that on a regular basis,” Mr Blinken said in Bangkok, during his first official trip to Thailand shortly after attending the Group of 20 (G-20) foreign ministers’ meeting in Indonesia’s Bali.

He also called on Asean to hold the Myanmar regime, which ousted the civilian government last year, accountable and for China to support Myanmar’s return to democracy.

“I think it’s also incumbent upon China and in China’s interest to see Burma move back to the path that it was on that it was so violently disrupted from by the coup,” he said, referring to Myanmar by its former name.

Earlier on Sunday, Thailand and the United States signed an agreement to deepen their cooperation in law enforcement, cyber security and climate change, as well as a memorandum of understanding on promoting supply chain resilience. 

The latter, according to Mr Blinken, will “make it easier for Thailand and the United States to quickly share information and consult on possible supply chain disruptions so that we can actually take early action to mitigate problems”.

He said: “Our countries share the same goal – a free, open, interconnected, prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific. In recent years, we’ve worked together even more closely towards that vision.”

Mr Blinken was originally scheduled to visit Thailand in December last year, but had to call it off after a member of his travelling party tested positive for Covid-19.

On this trip, he also met Thai Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha, discussing issues such as post-pandemic economic recovery, and cooperation related to climate change and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings which Thailand is hosting in November.

While both countries are long-standing treaty allies, Thailand – like much of South-east Asia – has tried to stay neutral amid intensifying Sino-US rivalry.

Mr Blinken’s trip to Thailand comes within a week of a similar visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who managed to get Bangkok to pledge to complete the much-delayed Thai-Chinese high-speed railway by 2028. This will link Thailand to China via a newly opened rail system in Laos and open a faster overland conduit of goods and people.

The top US diplomat held about five hours of talks with Mr Wang in Bali on Saturday after the G-20 meeting, addressing issues such as human rights, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Mr Blinken, who had joined some of his G-20 counterparts in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reportedly urged Beijing to distance itself from the Kremlin during his talks with Mr Wang.

“Despite the complexities of our relationship, I can say with some confidence that our delegations found today’s discussions useful, candid and constructive,” Mr Blinken said after speaking to his Chinese counterpart.

US officials had earlier described the meeting as aimed at building “guardrails” to manage the intense competition between the two powers.

Mr Blinken tweeted on Saturday afternoon: “The US will continue to work together with our partners and allies to coordinate a multilateral response to global challenges, including food and energy insecurity and Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”

Mr Blinken, who arrived in Bangkok on Saturday, is expected to fly to Tokyo on Sunday to offer his condolences for the death of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated last Friday.

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