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ASEAN’s newly appointed special envoy to Myanmar will insist on meeting with jailed politicians and members of the opposition, he told reporters Saturday in his first public remarks about the role.
A plan to visit Myanmar was “in the pipeline,” but Second Foreign Minister of Brunei Erywan Yusof did not give a time frame, citing a need to consult all countries and actors concerned.
“This time around, it’ll be a more substantive discussion on the five-point consensus, particularly cessation of violence, dialogue, and mediation,” Erywan told reporters in Bandar Seri Begawan, the Bruneian capital.
The five-point consensus “clearly states that it will involve all parties concerned. And that’s something that we will uphold. Because that was what the leaders agreed, with Myanmar included, so there is no two ways about it,” he said when asked if he would speak with toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Erywan is one of two Bruneian officials who visited Naypyidaw in May to meet Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the architect of the Feb. 1 coup, and present him names of envoy candidates.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations hammered out its five-point plan on post-coup Myanmar at a special summit in Jakarta in April, calling for appointment of a special envoy; provision of humanitarian assistance; cessation of violence; dialogue among all parties; and for the envoy to mediate that dialogue.
Addressing criticism of the time it took to begin implementing the plan – he was named envoy just this week – Erywan said that in addition to operating by consensus, ASEAN had prioritized naming an envoy that Myanmar’s military leaders would accept.
“We wanted to avoid the same situation that was faced by the U.N. Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar,” he said, referring to Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener, who has not been allowed into Burma.
“Whilst we can appoint anybody … what use would that be if Myanmar is not willing to, or not comfortable, and thus not willing to allow or to talk to them,” he said.
While he did not give a date for his maiden trip to Myanmar as special envoy, he said that ASEAN was moving “immediately” on the provision of humanitarian assistance and medical equipment.
Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi has been in touch with international agencies and those inside Myanmar, and would be staging a donor conference not later than the second week of August, he said.
He also sought to tamp down expectations about what the envoy could accomplish.
“A lot of the hype is that I’m going to solve the situation,” Erywan said. “[T]his is a Myanmar-led and Myanmar-owned initiative, outcome. All I can do is only facilitate and help,” he said.
On Wednesday, Burmese political analyst Than Soe Naing cast doubt about who the ASEAN envoy could negotiate with, since officials from the elected civilian government were now in jail.
“The military council has put everybody concerned into the prison and filed various charges,” Than Soe Naing told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
On Aug. 1, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself prime minister of Myanmar and announced that elections would not take place until 2023.
Six months earlier, the military overthrew the democratically elected government, claiming voter fraud had led to a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in the country’s November 2020 election.
The junta has violently suppressed demonstrations calling for a return to civilian rule, killing some 950 people over six months. Thirty-two have died under suspicious circumstances while undergoing interrogation by security forces, according to previous RFA reports.
A Burmese human rights attorney greeted Wednesday’s announcement of the envoy with optimism.
“[H]e could bring something to the table, instead of the continuing stalemate,” Min Lwin Oo said. “I think the ASEAN envoy needs to execute the tasks, such as pushing for the release of detained leaders.”
But an international relations expert in Jakarta said Erywan was chosen to mollify ASEAN members who are not invested in human rights.
“He has not been chosen for his ability to navigate complex issues in Myanmar, but to come to terms with other ASEAN members that are half-hearted in their efforts, or even actively rejecting efforts to find a solution rooted in democracy and human rights,” said Dinna Prapto Raharja, of Synergy Policies, a Jakarta-based think-tank.
Among ASEAN members, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are one-party states and Brunei is a sultanate. Thailand is governed by a former coup leader who awarded Min Aung Hlaing a royal decoration in 2018.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.