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ASEAN special envoy sets Myanmar visit for later this month

ASEAN special envoy sets Myanmar visit for later this month

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn at a press conference after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) session of ASEAN foreign ministers' retreat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Feb 17, 2022. (File photo: AP/Heng Sinith)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s foreign minister later this month will make his first trip to Myanmar in his capacity as the special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, his office said Thursday (Mar 4).

The regional grouping, usually referred to as ASEAN, is seeking to contribute to the peacemaking process in Myanmar, which has been wracked by violent unrest since the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year.

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn’s visit is scheduled for Mar 20 to 23, according to a ministry spokesperson, but details of the meetings have yet to be finalised.

ASEAN is seeking to implement a five-point consensus on Myanmar it reached last year stressing dialogue, humanitarian assistance and an end to violence.

But the ruling military council of Myanmar, which is also a member of ASEAN, has delayed implementation of the plan, even as the country has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have described as civil war.

A particular sticking point has been the military’s refusal to allow an ASEAN envoy to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since last year’s takeover. Myanmar’s lack of cooperation led ASEAN last year to bar its leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, from attending its annual summit meeting, an unprecedented step for the body.

According to Cambodian officials, Myanmar’s military has recently given permission for ASEAN’s envoy to meet with other members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. However, virtually all its major leaders are jailed, like Aung San Suu Kyi, or in hiding to escape arrest.

Prak Sokhonn became the ASEAN special envoy after Cambodia assumed this year’s chair for the regional grouping.

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

Source: AP/aj
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