Thai PM postpones Burma visit

July 29, 2009 (DVB), Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's scheduled visit to Burma this Friday has been postponed at the request of the Burmese junta because it will clash with the announcement of the Aung San Suu Kyi verdict.

Although the visit is ostensibly to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries, it is thought the timing was not prudent, and Vejjajiva yesterday accepted the request to delay the trip.

Relations between Thailand and Burma have come under pressure in recent months as Thailand, who holds the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on several occasions condemned the Suu Kyi trial.

Thai government spokesperson Panitan Wattanagorn said however that the postponement had nothing to do with the criticism voiced by Thailand.

In May, Burma lashed out at Thailand's "interference" after Vejjajiva expressed "grave concern" over the trial and said that the political crisis could damage Burma's credibility.

A few days later Vejjajiva spoke of his concern that Burma's presence in ASEAN, which has long been the subject of contention, could tarnish the bloc's image.

The verdict on the trial of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which wrapped up yesterday, is due to be delivered on Friday.

Suu Kyi is said to be "preparing for the worst", with many Burma observers seeing the trial as a ploy to keep her in detention beyond the 2010 elections.

If found guilty of breaching conditions of her house arrest, following an incident in which US citizen John Yettaw in May swam to her lakeside compound and stayed for two nights, Suu Kyi could face a maximum of five years in prison.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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