Thailand Appoints Maris Sangiampongsa as New Foreign Minister Amid Myanmar Conflict

Thailand appoints veteran diplomat Maris Sangiampongsa as new foreign minister to manage Myanmar conflict and facilitate regional peace talks amid cabinet reshuffle.

Nitish Verma
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Thailand Appoints Maris Sangiampongsa as New Foreign Minister Amid Myanmar Conflict

Thailand Appoints Maris Sangiampongsa as New Foreign Minister Amid Myanmar Conflict

Thailand has appointed Maris Sangiampongsa, a retired diplomat, as its new foreign minister amid ongoing efforts to manage the conflict in neighboring Myanmar and facilitate regional peace talks. Maris, 65, replaces Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara, who unexpectedly resigned on Sunday after being stripped of his position as deputy prime minister in a cabinet reshuffle.

Maris brings extensive diplomatic experience to the role, having previously served as Thailand's ambassador to several countries, including Australia, Fiji, and Nepal. He is known to have close ties with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who appointed him as ambassador to Vanuatu during his tenure.

The appointment comes at a critical time as Thailand steps up diplomatic efforts to address the escalating civil war in Myanmar between the ruling military and a loose alliance of established ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement. Thailand has been pressing the regional bloc ASEAN to be more proactive in seeking a solution, as several key members have become frustrated at the Myanmar junta's refusal to engage their opponents.

Why this matters: The ongoing conflict in Myanmar has significant regional implications, with the potential to destabilize Southeast Asia and create a humanitarian crisis. Thailand's appointment of an experienced diplomat as foreign minister underscores the country's commitment to playing a key role in facilitating peace talks and delivering humanitarian aid to those affected by the violence.

As the new foreign minister, Maris is expected to continue Thailand's role as a facilitator and mediator in the Myanmar conflict. His past experience dealing with Myanmar, including his praise for the country's political and economic opening under the previous military government, suggests his approach to the current situation may differ from the more balanced policy initiated by the current administration. However, the deteriorating conditions in Myanmar since the 2021 coup may limit the usefulness of Maris' past experience in the new role.

The cabinet reshuffle also saw changes in the finance ministry, with former energy executive Pichai Chunhavajira being named the new finance minister. Observers believe the changes in the Finance Ministry indicate the Srettha administration's focus on economic development and growth.

Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin apologized to Parnpree for the cabinet changes that led to his resignation and said he will bear the responsibility for the reshuffle. The Thai public is taking a 'wait and see' approach to the new cabinet, hoping for tangible results in addressing the country's challenges, including the sluggish economy and air quality issues.

Key Takeaways

  • Thailand appoints retired diplomat Maris Sangiampongsa as new foreign minister.
  • Maris to play key role in facilitating peace talks and delivering aid in Myanmar.
  • Cabinet reshuffle also sees changes in finance ministry, indicating focus on economic growth.
  • PM Srettha apologizes for Parnpree's resignation, public takes 'wait and see' approach.
  • Appointment comes amid ongoing conflict in Myanmar and its regional implications.