Burma Army chief kicks off visit to Thailand

Burma Army chief kicks off visit to Thailand

Burma’s armed forces commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing kicks off a three-day visit to Thailand today, where he will meet Privy Council president Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and military top brass.

Despite the political transition from military rule to the first elected civilian government in five decades in Burma, the general, who earlier this year had his term extended for another five years, is still a powerful figure.

The Thai ruling junta did not give details of the visit, but a military source told The Bangkok Post Ming Aung Hlaing is due to meet Supreme Commander Sommai Kaotira today, and Gen Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn tomorrow.

“His visit signifies our strong bilateral relationship,” said the source.

Wirat Niyomtam, a Burma expert at Naresuan University, said the visit underlines the military’s role in national security and border affairs as stated in the constitution.

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“While State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi is seen to be close to the Western world, the military is strengthening its ties with armies in Asean,” said Wirat.

Earlier this month, Burma’s President Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi made their first state visit to Laos, for a meeting with Lao President Bounnhang Vorachith in Vientiane.

Wirat said the visit to Laos, current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, reflected Burma’s commitment to Asean, but it is unclear whether the military chief’s visit would also pave the way for the presidential delegation to come to Thailand.

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