CHIANG MAI, Thailand – As the second-largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) plunged further into political chaos with the announcement of a Thai military coup on Thursday, Burma’s government, which took the helm of the regional grouping this year, refrained from providing an immediate assessment of the latest development.
“Regarding the latest situation, we can tell exactly only after we hold a meeting with the Asean nations,” Ye Htut, a spokesman for Burmese President Thein Sein, told The Irrawaddy in a telephone interview on Thursday afternoon, adding that he did not know when the next meeting would be scheduled.
He said the 24th Asean Summit in Burma earlier this month “covered all the matters of Thailand’s political situation, with recommendations for a peaceful solution to the political crisis in accordance with the rule of law.”
The chief of Thailand’s army announced in a televised broadcast on Thursday afternoon that the military was taking control of the country’s administration to restore stability following six months of political deadlock. The announcement came after martial law was declared on Tuesday.
In Burma, Ye Htut, who is also deputy minister of information, defended the Thai military’s decision to stop normal programming of all radio and television stations after the coup.
“In any country, if there’s an emergency situation, there are always limitations on civil rights,” he told The Irrawaddy. “During World War II, the United States detained Japanese and censored letters. In Thailand, as far as I know, the Thai army has only restricted media that have incited riots and conflicts.
“The mainstream media like the Bangkok Post and The Nation are still running normally. I have been following The Nation’s newsfeed on their website. I think they [the army] are controlling media that they need to control.”
The statement comes as Burmese officials faces criticisms for backtracking on media freedoms in their own country, following the arrests of several Burmese journalists this year.