Dream On? Activists Want Gov’t to Sanction Myanmar Coup Leaders

Burmese living in Thailand and supporters hold pictures of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Feb. 4, 2021.

BANGKOK — A group of pro-democracy activists on Thursday urged the opposition parties to push for sanctions of the military junta in Myanmar.

The campaign was led by Ekachai Hongkangwan, who submitted a petition to representatives of opposition parties on Thursday. Speaking on the phone, Ekachai said he wants the government to ban the Burmese coup leaders from entering Thailand and freeze any of the assets that they may have in the kingdom.

The chance of that happening is virtually nil – the Thai government has signaled it would treat the coup as Myanmar’s internal affairs. Even opposition politicians admitted as much, Ekachai said.

“They told me Thailand is a member of ASEAN, we cannot interfere with a fellow member state,” the activist said. “But I told them there has to be a sanction … I laid down the options for them and told them, ‘you can do it. Don’t give me an excuse about non-interference. If you don’t do it, you’re hypocrites.’”

Move Forward Party MP Amarat Chokepamitkul accepted the letter on behalf of the opposition camp. She said there is no plan to raise the matter in Parliament as of now.

“We have to consult with fellow opposition parties,” Amarat said on the phone. “There is an issue about non-interference principle that we must consider.”

Scores of Myanmar nationals and Thai activists also gathered in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Thursday night to denounce the coup. The military’s takeover began on Monday with the preemptive detention of senior government officials and politicians, including the country’s leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Paiboon Nititawan, deputy leader of the ruling Phalang Pracharath Party, said on the phone Thursday that the party’s policy on the matter is identical to the government: no intervention in Myanmar’s domestic issues.

“We cannot interfere with domestic policies of any ASEAN member state,” Paiboon said. “The government also said it will stick to the principle of ASEAN, which is to refrain from interfering with other countries.”

Demonstrators burn portrait of Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing close to the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Feb. 4, 2021, to protest the coup in Myanmar and call for restoration of democratic regime.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday that Thailand will adhere to the principle of non-interference. He also warned the media to be careful in their news coverage of the situation in Burma.

“Don’t cause conflicts. The media has to help,” Prayut said.

Army chief Gen. Narongphan Jitkaewthae on Thursday declined to comment on the putsch in Myanmar.

When reporters asked Gen. Narongphan whether he found it difficult to comment on the military takeover because Thailand has also experienced many coups in the past, the army chief was clearly irritated.

“I don’t have any feeling about it,” Narongphan said. “I already told you that this word [coup] has not existed in my head. It hasn’t existed for a long time. It disappeared long ago. Yet the media still dig up this word.”