Frustration in Myanmar over ASEAN envoy’s peace mission

Frustration in Myanmar over ASEAN envoy’s peace mission

FILE PHOTO: Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 28, 2019.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Activists and opposition groups say the special ASEAN envoy favors Myanmar's ruling generals and disregards those they are persecuting

Small protests took place in military-ruled Myanmar on Tuesday, March 22, against a visit by a Southeast Asian envoy, whose peace mission has been derided by critics as a failure and an endorsement of a junta condemned by the United Nations for its harsh rule.

Prak Sokhonn, special envoy for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has been chided by activists and opposition groups, who say he has shown favor to the ruling generals and disregard for those they are persecuting.

ASEAN chair Cambodia declined to say who Prak Sokhonn met on Tuesday and Myanmar state television did not report on his activities.

On Monday, it had extensive coverage of his talks with the junta leadership, which ASEAN has barred from its summits for ignoring a five-point “consensus” agreed last year to end the crisis.

Small demonstrations took place on Tuesday, including in Mandalay and Kachin state, where some protesters carried signs telling Prak Sokhonn he was not welcome, images posted by activists on social media showed.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the envoy had shown “a clear tilt to the side of the junta.”

“By rushing to Myanmar to embrace top level junta representatives without a clear agreement for steps forward on
the five-point consensus, or even the possibility of meeting all meaningful stakeholders … Prak Sokhonn is granting the junta a public relations windfall,” he said in a statement.

Myanmar has been plagued by violence and instability since the military seized power and upended a decade of tentative democratic and economic reforms.

The military’s bloody crackdown on civilians has been condemned by the international community. The United Nations last week said the army was committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The junta has yet to respond to that, but has previously accused “terrorists” opposed to its rule of causing violence and destruction.

Cambodia last week sought to temper expectations about the trip, which it said aimed to create “favorable conditions” for peace.

According to Radio Free Asia and an ASEAN diplomat who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, Prak Sokhonn had been due on Tuesday to meet Su Su Lwin, the wife of an ex president and a member of Myanmar’s ousted ruling party, but that was cancelled due to issues with her health.

On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said ASEAN’s peace plan had made little progress, with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing failing to stop the violence or allow proper humanitarian access.

“Myanmar’s people have been clear in their rejection of this coup and the violence it has wrought on their lives. They demand that their voices be heard,” she said. –

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