As the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM)drew to a close over the weekend, Cambodia’s top diplomat Prak Sokhonn now sets his sights on his third trip to Myanmar in his capacity as the bloc’s special envoy.
In an August 6 press conference on the summary and key outcomes of the AMM in Phnom Penh, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation announced that he will embark on the visit in early September, while also warning that ASEAN will decide on the next move should Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC) carry out further executions of opposition activists.
Sokhonn, who along with other ASEAN foreign ministers deplored the SAC’s little progress in and lack of commitment to implement the Five-Point Consensus (5PC)in their August 5 joint communique, said the ongoing crisis was exacerbated by the recent executions, though he will persevere as much as he can to help find a solution acceptable to all parties.
“I told the AMM that I am … just a special envoy, not a superhero or a superman. I think even a superman cannot resolve the Myanmar issue [overnight].
“As I said, I will not give up on Myanmar. But the executions of the four opposition activists is a setback. All other nine ASEAN member states have agreed to see how things will evolve in the coming weeks and months.
The communique said: “We recommended that the ASEAN Summit assesses the progress towards the implementation of the [5PC] by the [SAC] to guide the decision on the next steps,” it said, adding that they are ready to help Myanmar return to normalcy in a positive, peaceful, and constructive manner, including in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post that he believes ASEAN needs to take a sterner approach with Myanmar’s SAC.
“The stance of the ASEAN foreign ministers at this time is the right position to take to provide clarity and an absolutely unified stance by ASEAN in contributing to the resolution of political issues in Myanmar, because the five points of consensus do not seem to carry any weight with the SAC, which continues to provoke ASEAN’s member states and leaders and does not cooperate, show good will or sincerity in their dealings with ASEAN.
“We see that ASEAN has already gone to great efforts, especially the ASEAN chair and special envoy, and has worked very hard on this issue. Thus, I think that ASEAN’s next strategy or mechanism should be more rigorous, thorough and serious than the five-point agreement. If not, we will see that the situation of human rights abuses – like the application of the death penalty for political activists – will continue to worsen,” he stated.
On other regional and international crises, Sokhonn said the contentious issues of Taiwan, Ukraine, South China Sea and North Korea were also hotly debated at the AMM, prompting his call for the meeting to be conducted in a calm and diplomatic manner.
He said Cambodia, as the chair of ASEAN, provided the floor to all parties to express their governments’ views on the issues through the AMM.
On the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Sokhonn and his ASEAN counterparts called for respect of sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity, and compliance with the international laws and UN Charter.
“The meeting underlined the importance of an immediate cessation of hostilities and the creation of an enabling environment for the peaceful resolution of conflict. We supported the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in the search for a peaceful solution.
“We also called for the facilitation of rapid, safe and unhindered access to humanitarian assistance for those in need in Ukraine, and for the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel, and persons in vulnerable situations,” the statement said.
The ASEAN diplomats also renewed their commitment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement and COP-15, especially the principle of shared responsibility for responding to climate change, according to a joint statement.
They said they were in favour of the ratification of the climate agreement at the UN Conference on Climate Change COP-26 in Glasgow, UK.
Their statement goes on to note that ASEAN member states also recognise the importance of enhancing cooperation, such as capacity-building and climate finance by developed countries, for the implementation of the commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact.
ASEAN also looks forward to the global efforts to be determined at the UNFCCC (COP-27), which will be held on November 6-18, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The ASEAN foreign ministers have encouraged development in response to climate change, with plans to establish an ASEAN Centre for Climate Change (ACCC) in Brunei-Darussalam to increase climate change coordination and cooperation among the member states of ASEAN to increase resilience to climate change and reduce carbon emissions.