Blinken also met with Thai leaders and hailed the kingdom’s role in reviving US policy in Southeast Asia, a key region in the competition with Beijing.
In a meeting held off-camera to protect their families, the US diplomat listened to young pro-democracy activists in Burma, whose military overthrew the civilian government in February 2021, slamming the door on a decade of democratic transition supported by Washington.
Even if he gives priority to the fight against the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the head of American diplomacy has pledged to maintain pressure on Burma.
He acknowledged that the US strategy, which includes sanctions against the junta, has not yielded any results so far.
“It is unfortunately safe to say that we have not seen any positive movement and on the contrary, we continue to witness the repression of the Burmese people,” Blinken told reporters in Bangkok.
– “Call accountable” to the regime –
“We will continue to seek ways in which we, and other countries, can pressure (the military) to return to the path of democracy,” he said.
“I think all ASEAN countries need to hold the regime to account,” he added.
In April last year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reached a “five-point consensus” with the Burmese junta, which had taken power two months earlier, including calls for dialogue with the opposition.
Mr Blinken declined to criticize the recent visit to Myanmar by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, with whom he spoke for 5 hours on Saturday in Bali, but called on Beijing to support international calls for democracy.
“I think it’s also incumbent on China and it’s in China’s interest to see Burma return to the path it was on and was so violently driven away from by the coup.” , did he declare.
Tens of thousands have fled the country, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated and ethnic conflict has intensified since the military overthrew and arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
Thailand is America’s oldest ally in Asia.
During the signing of an agreement aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries, Blinken highlighted Thailand’s adherence to a new US-led economic plan for Asia, as well as its efforts in matter of climate change.
– Key ally for the United States in Asia –
In Bangkok, Blinken met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who came to power in a 2014 coup, triggering US sanctions.
Prayut became head of government in the 2019 elections, which ushered in a gradual return to more open political discourse.
In a joint statement signed by Blinken and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the United States and Thailand called democracy “essential” to the two countries’ understanding of Asia.
Addressing an issue of high priority for the Biden administration, the statement said Washington and Bangkok will promote “open and inclusive societies” for LGBTQ people. Blinken also praised Thailand for joining President Biden’s plan to promote green energy in Southeast Asia, through $2.7 billion in private investment in the country.
Regarding the turmoil in Sri Lanka, Russia’s restrictions on Ukrainian grain exports may have played a role, Blinken said.
“We see the impact of this Russian aggression playing out everywhere. It may have contributed to the situation in Sri Lanka. We are concerned about the implications around the world,” he said.
Sri Lanka is experiencing serious unrest caused by shortages of food, medicine and fuel.
After Bangkok, Mr. Blinken will travel to Japan on Monday to personally offer his condolences after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.