Ministry of Foreign Affairs appoints special rep on Myanmar, observers question past including US conviction

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ (MFA) latest appointee,  a new special representative to focus specifically on Myanmar, was indicted and pleaded guilty for illegal lobbying in the United States over two decades ago. 

Pornpimol “Pauline” Kanchanalak was appointed as the MFA’s special representative to Myanmar on Monday, raising eyebrows. 

The ministry said she will coordinate efforts when negotiating with Myanmar’s government and that she will report directly to foreign minister Don Pramudwinai.

Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing took power in a military coup on February 1, 2021. Since the coup last year, almost 1,800 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested or detained. 

MFA’s spokesman Tanee Sangrat told Thai Enquirer on Tuesday that Pornpimol has been assisting the foreign minister by supporting in many meetings including meetings on Myanmar before the appointment.

However, the spokesman did not comment on Pornpimol’s legal case from 1999. 

“I don’t have anything to add on this,” Tanee said.

According to a press release by the US Justice Department, Pornpimol pleaded guilty to campaign financing-related offenses in the United States back in 2000.

She was one of 25 people charged by the US’s Campaign Financing Task Force for campaign finance abuses in the 1996 general election. Pornpimol pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to produce false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) between 1992 and 1996.

The US Justice Department said she conspired to use foreign funds to make prohibited political contributions to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and five state Democratic Party campaign committees.

She also further conspired to have those committees report the illegal contributions to the FEC, they said.

According to her plea, Pornpimol caused more than US$690,000 in foreign money to be illegally contributed to the DNC and other political committees between 1992 and 1996.

The DOJ said she did it in order to gain favor with the DNC and attend fundraising and political events with former president Bill Clinton, members of his Administration and prominent members of the business community. 

The department said Pornpimol and her coconspirators believed these networking opportunities would benefit their businesses, including the business of Ban Chang International (USA) which Pornpimol was president.

The DOJ also said that the majority of the illegal contributions, more than $457,000, from Pornpimol were provided to the DNC and other committees in connection with a meeting held at the White House in June 1996. 

The meeting was attended by Pornpimol, former President Clinton, John Huang and two executives of Charoen Pokphand Group (CP).

Thai Enquirer attempted to reach Pornpimol for comment but she could not be contacted.  

Human Rights Advocacy Specialist for Fortify Rights, Patrick Pongsathorn, told Thai Enquirer on Tuesday that Pormpimol’s appointment could only work if she works to improve the situation in the country.

“Khun Pormpimol’s appointment is welcome news if it means Thailand is genuinely trying to bring an end to the crisis in Myanmar, rather than just look out for its narrow self-interest,” Pongsathorn said. “As she takes up this responsibility, Pormpimol must not lend any legitimacy to the junta.” 

Patrick added that Pormpimol should engage Myanmar’s legitimate elected representatives, the National Unity Government, and work with the rest of ASEAN to implement the ‘five-point consensus plan’, a proposal being raised to help resolve the crisis in Myanmar. 

At a summit in Jakarta on April, ASEAN leaders and Min Aung Hlaing agreed to five points consensus to resolve the atrocity in Myanmar including an immediate end to violence in the country, dialogue among all parties, the appointment of a special envoy, humanitarian assistance by ASEAN and the special envoy’s visit to Myanmar to meet with all parties.

“Thailand should also stand with the international community in denouncing the coup, and the actions of the junta, and support efforts to cut off the junta’s access to weapons and financing,” Pongsathorn said. 

Additional report by Caleb Quinley
Feature Photo via MFA

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