ASEAN envoys in Myanmar for talks with junta chief

YANGON (AFP) – Envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) arrived in Myanmar on Thursday for talks with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, as the coup-stricken nation enters its fifth month of unrest.

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the February coup, with more than 800 people killed in a brutal military crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof and ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi arrived in the capital Naypyidaw late on Thursday, a senior Myanmar official, who didn’t want to be named, told AFP.

The envoys met Min Aung Hlaing, the official added, and the junta’s information team told journalists that they would shortly release more information on the meetings.

This handout from the Myanmar News Agency (MNA) taken and released on June 4, 2021 shows Myanmar armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (R) meeting with Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Erywan in Naypyidaw. PHOTO:MNA

ASEAN has led diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, but the regional bloc is not known for its diplomatic clout and observers have questioned how effectively it can influence events in the country.

While the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) have ramped up sanctions on Myanmar’s generals, ASEAN has struggled to form a united front.

“The leadership for trying to find a political solution for the Myanmar situation belongs to ASEAN,” EU Foreign Police Chief Josep Borrell told journalists in Jakarta on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear whether the envoys would also meet members of a shadow government formed by ousted lawmakers – mostly from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party – which has sought to bring anti-coup dissidents together.

Protesters make the three-finger salute during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP