ASEAN leaders urge 'peaceful solution' in Thailand

ASEAN leaders urge 'peaceful solution' in Thailand

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar - ASEAN yesterday adopted a recommendation by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen that the grouping - which has had a policy of non-interference in other members' affairs - issue a statement on Thailand's ongoing political crisis.

The statement called for all conflicting parties in Thailand to end the ongoing political crisis peacefully and democratically.

"ASEAN member states continue to follow closely the recent developments in Thailand and emphasise their full support for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing challenge in the country through dialogue and in full respect of democratic principles and rule of law," the statement by ASEAN foreign ministers said.

"ASEAN expressed confidence in the resilience of the Thai nation to overcome the present difficulties and stand ready to extend all appropriate support based on the principles provided in its charter."

Hun Sen suggested before the leaders summit in the Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw yesterday he would propose that the regional group issue a statement on the political crisis in Thailand to reflect ASEAN's view.

But it was ASEAN foreign ministers who issued the statement, an official said.

Hun Sen was regarded as a close political ally of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been at the core of conflict in Thai politics for many years.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, who represented Thailand in the ASEAN summit, said his government listened to all voices and views on the political crisis.

Phongthep had to attend the summit as he was assigned to oversee the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Surapong Tovichakchaikul was dismissed from the office following the Constitutional Court's verdict last week regarding the unlawful transfer of National Security Council chief Thawil Pliensri.

Yingluck Shinawatra was also ousted as prime minister by the court.

"I understand that ASEAN leaders gave importance to political development in Thailand and I reassured them that Thailand has a long history of democracy and we will go along this democratic way," Phongthep told reporters in Nay Pyi Taw.

The government had put a lot of effort into trying to solve the conflict by peaceful means and stage a new election in accordance with the constitution, he said.

There was some reluctance to issue the statement on the political crisis.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa had initially prepared a draft statement when Surapong was still foreign minister. It was later adjusted by the Myanmar chair. But some ministers had second thoughts over recent days, suggesting it might be too difficult for the group to take a proper stance on the rapidly changing situation in Thailand, a source said.

ASEAN ministers tread the finest line in order to avoid Thailand's warring parties from misinterpreting the statement and believing it to take the side of one group.

ASEAN leaders issued a statement on the political crisis on December 14 when they gathered in Tokyo for the ASEAN-Japan summit. They called for Thailand to solve the problem within a democratic framework and rule of law, promote national reconciliation and return of normalcy in accordance with the will and interest of the people of Thailand.


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