By SAW YAN NAING
The Irrawaddy News
Burmese opposition politicians and some political observers and commentators have strongly rejected Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej’s description of Aung San Suu Kyi as a “political tool” of the West.
Samak made the controversial comment to UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari when the two met in Bangkok as the Nigerian diplomat was returning from his latest failed mission to Burma.
“Europe uses Aung San Suu Kyi as a political tool,” Samak told Gambari. “If it's not related to Aung San Suu Kyi, you can have deeper discussions with Myanmar [Burma].”
Samak also told reporters after meeting Gambari: “Efforts to engage the military regime would be more productive if Aung San Suu Kyi was left off the agenda.”
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) rejected the Thai premier’s comments as inappropriate.
“As the leader of a country, he should not give such comments about the political affairs of other countries,” said NLD Spokesman Nyan Win.
Nyan Win accused Samak of favoring the Burmese regime and ignoring the Burmese people.
Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior editor of the Bangkok English-language daily newspaper The Nation said, “I think Samak’s comment is ridiculous. And he has tarnished Thailand’s reputation as the chairman of the Asean (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).
“He [Samak] doesn’t even understand the situation in Burma. He has a very sadistic attitude in attacking whoever disagrees with him. Look at the manner he attacks the Thai media everyday.”
A Burmese ethnic leader, Cin Sian Thang, chairman of the Zomi National Congress in Rangoon, accused Samak of “insulting Burmese people.”
Cin Sian Thang charged that Samak “doesn’t support the formation of democracy in Burma.”
A well-known Burmese politician and former ambassador to China in the 1970s, Thakin Chan Htun, said in Rangoon that Samak’s remarks were based on Thailand’s business interests in Burma, which were more important to him than democratic reform.
Although Gambari failed to meet any top Burmese leader or Aung San Suu Kyi on his latest visit, the UN denied the mission was a failure.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s deputy spokeswoman,
Marie Okabe, said in New York on Monday: “One should not make a judgment on the process based on each individual visit.”
During his Bangkok stopover, Gambari urged Samak to continue his support for the UN mission to break the political deadlock in Burma.
Gambari is scheduled to visit Indonesia before returning to New York, where Okabe said he would report to Ban Ki-moon on his latest visit to Burma.