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Asean special envoy makes 2nd visit to strife-torn Myanmar

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn holds a press conference after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations session of Asean foreign ministers’ retreat in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Feb. 17, 2022. Cambodia’s foreign minister arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday, June 29, on his second visit as a special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the country, which has been mired in violence and civil unrest since the military seized power last year.

BANGKOK—Cambodia’s foreign minister is making his second visit to Myanmar as a special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the country that has been mired in violence and civil unrest since the military seized power last year.

State-run television MRTV reported that Prak Sokhonn and his party were welcomed by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after their arrival in Yangon on Wednesday.

Asean has been seeking to implement a five-point consensus it reached on Myanmar last year calling for dialogue among all concerned parties, provision of humanitarian assistance, an immediate cessation of violence and a visit by a special envoy to meet all parties. Cambodia is the current chair of the 10-nation grouping, which includes Myanmar.

Myanmar’s military-installed government initially agreed to the consensus but has since made little effort to implement it, and the country has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have characterized as a civil war. Its stonewalling led fellow Asean members to block government leaders from attending major meetings of the regional grouping.

A spokesperson for the military government said on Tuesday that Prak Sokhoon will not be allowed to meet ousted government leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his five-day visit. Suu Kyi is being tried on multiple charges, including corruption, and was transferred last week to a custom-built solitary facility at a prison in Naypyitaw, the capital. Her supporters say the charges are politically motivated to discredit her and legitimize the military’s seizure of power.

The military ousted Suu Kyi’s elected government and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against its actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms.

Cambodia’s government said Prak Sokhonn’s visit will follow up on the implementation of the five-point consensus, the outcome of a consultative meeting on Asean humanitarian assistance to Myanmar held in Cambodia last month, and help create an environment conducive to political dialogue through meetings with all concerned parties.

Prak Sokhonn is scheduled to meet with military government leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and officials from at least six ethnic armed groups, which have been seeking greater autonomy from the central government. But there is skepticism that the meeting will advance peacemaking because none of the groups attending is currently in armed conflict with the government.

During his first mission in March, Prak Sokhonn met with Min Aung Hlaing, diplomats from other Asean countries and the UN and a Myanmar politician. He said after his return that he had seen minor progress during his visit and was not allowed to meet with Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders. AP

Image credits: AP/Heng Sinith



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