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    ASEAN envoy for Myanmar crisis arrives on first mission

    AP – Cambodia’s foreign minister arrived yesterday in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw on his mission as a special regional envoy seeking to facilitate peacemaking in the fellow Southeast Asian nation, which was plunged into an extended violent political crisis after the army seized power last year.

    Prak Sokhonn is representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which last April reached a five-point consensus on Myanmar. It called for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

    The ruling military council of Myanmar, which is one of ASEAN’s 10 member states, has delayed implementation of its plan, even as the country has slipped into a situation that United Nations (UN) experts have characterised as a civil war. Neither the military nor its opponents have suggested mutually acceptable compromises that could stem the violence, much less resolve the political impasse over ruling the country.

    Soon after their arrival for their three-day visit, Prak Sokhonn and his party, including ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi, held a meeting with Myanmar’s leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other top officials, during which they discussed implementation of the five-point plan, conditions for providing humanitarian assistance and cooperation with ASEAN, said a statement from Myanmar’s Information Ministry.

    The statement, which described the meeting as a “first step”, said Min Aung Hlaing also presented his government’s versions of the events leading to the army’s takeover and the violence that followed it.

    Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman Senior General Min Aung Hlaing shakes hands with Cambodian Foreign Minister and ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar Prak Sokhonn during a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

    Myanmar’s reluctance to implement the actions urged in the consensus has caused a split among the members of ASEAN, which has ostracised Myanmar by blocking its leaders from attending major meetings of the regional grouping. Min Aung Hlaing was not invited to last October’s virtual meeting of ASEAN leaders because of the disagreement.

    That rebuke was issued shortly after Myanmar declined to let an ASEAN special envoy meet with its ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the military took power in February 2021.

    The army ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government and then cracked down on the widespread protests against its action. After security forces unleashed lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms.

    A statement issued last Friday by Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said Prak Sokhonn’s first visit as ASEAN’s special envoy “will be aimed at creating a favourable condition leading to the end of violence as well as the utmost restraint by all parties”, along with distributing humanitarian assistance and encouraging political consultation or dialogue among all concerned parties.

    Prak Sakhonn became the ASEAN special envoy after Cambodia took over as this year’s chair for the regional grouping.

    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed interest in engaging more closely with Myanmar’s generals and in January this year became the first head of government to pay an official visit to Myanmar since the army seized power. In February, however, he expressed pessimism that the crisis there can be resolved anytime soon.

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