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ASEAN envoy briefs UNSC on Myanmar state of affairs

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Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn addresses the UN Security Council about Myanmar via video conference on May 27. MFAIC

ASEAN envoy briefs UNSC on Myanmar state of affairs

Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn, who also serves as the ASEAN special envoy on Myanmar, voiced optimism on May 27 that his second trip to the predominantly Buddhist country in June would produce positive outcomes and that he would be able to meet with a broader range of stakeholders in the ongoing crisis.

Sokhonn gave a special briefing on the Myanmar situation to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on May 27, roughly five months after his first such briefing and just over two months since his March visit.

He emphasised to the UNSC that Myanmar had faced numerous, multifaceted challenges ranging from the ongoing political and economic turmoil to the fight against Covid-19 and the onset of a severe humanitarian crisis.

“Having said that, not all hope is lost as long as we – both ASEAN and the international community – continue to engage constructively with Myanmar as opposed to isolating them.

“Cambodia fully recognises the complexity of this issue, and while we are doing our best as ASEAN chair this year, we sincerely hope that our contribution serves as a good foundation for future efforts in attaining peace, stability and prosperity for all of Myanmar,” Sokhonn said in a social media post after the briefing.

He said he would approach next month’s trip to Myanmar with five key things in mind: "The cessation of violence, constructive engagement, Covid-19 vaccinations, humanitarian relief and optimism”.

In a May 28 press statement on the outcome of Sokhonn’s meeting with the UNSC, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the minister had briefed the UNSC on his first trip to Myanmar on March 21-23 and at the Consultative Meeting on ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance to Myanmar on May 6 in Phnom Penh.

“He shared his view that the various political actors in Myanmar have to be more open to constructive dialogue so as to build mutual understanding, trust and confidence that will be conducive to an inclusive and credible peace process in the country.

“In this regard, the special envoy reaffirmed Cambodia’s readiness and commitment to be a keen listener and sincere facilitator for Myanmar,” the ministry said regarding Sokhonn’s first trip.

Sokhonn told the UNSC that the immediate priority would be to roll out the measures that were agreed to at the recent consultative meeting, especially the efforts to deliver humanitarian assistance to those most in need in a timely manner and without any discrimination.

“During this upcoming visit, the special envoy hopes to meet as many relevant stakeholders as possible in addition to those he met during the first visit,” the ministry said without naming who Sokhonn failed to meet or whom he hoped to meet this time around.

Recalling his March visit, Sokhonn said Myanmar leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – chairman of the ruling State Administration Council (SAC) – had hinted that he could possibly meet with, among others, former civilian administration leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

UN special envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer last week also met with Prime Minister Hun Sen – in his capacity as the 2022 ASEAN chair – at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Heyzer reiterated the importance of aligning regional efforts with realities on the ground and supporting a Myanmar-led process that reflects the needs and the will of the people, according to Stephane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said what the rival groups in Myanmar really want is the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said that as long as Suu Kyi remains in jail and political freedoms in Myanmar are restricted, the dialogue towards peace will face many obstacles and the progress towards a ceasefire will be hard to achieve, and that the only way it will likely be reached is if it truly benefits both sides of the conflict in equal measure along the lines of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s win-win policies.

“Nevertheless, it’s the decision of all parties involved in Myanmar what they will do going forwards, and ASEAN and the international community will mostly be limited to the role of facilitators as well as hopefully providing the necessary humanitarian relief,” he said.

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