ASEAN Envoy Says More Executions Would Put Future Myanmar Visits in Doubt

By The Irrawaddy 9 August 2022

The Southeast Asian regional special envoy for Myanmar warned he would reconsider his planned visit to the country if the ruling generals execute more political prisoners.

As the special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for Myanmar, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn plans to visit Myanmar for the third time in early September. He is assigned to mediate peace in the country, which has been in political and social turmoil since last year’s coup.

The junta executed four anti-regime democracy activists last month, defying international pleas for restraint, including from Cambodia, which currently holds the bloc’s rotating chair. In the wake of the hangings, the regime said there would be more executions, as the junta currently holds more than 70 political prisoners sentenced to death for their anti-regime activism.

“If there are more executions, I will reconsider [the planned visit] and all nine ASEAN Foreign Ministers agree on this position,” he said during a press conference on Saturday. ASEAN has 10 members including Myanmar.

In his capacity as the ASEAN chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said this year the bloc may rethink its approach to the Myanmar crisis if the regime continues to execute prisoners.

“If more prisoners are to be executed, we will be forced to rethink our role vis à vis ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus,” he said.

Myanmar has been a thorn in ASEAN’s side, as its military rulers have yet to honor a peace plan—known as the Five-Point Consensus—that the bloc adopted last year. The plan calls for an immediate cessation of violence and meetings with all stakeholders to bring peace to the country. So far the regime has killed more than 2,000 people.

“I am considering paying my third visit to Myanmar in early September if between now and then there is some positive progress there,” Prak Sokhonn said.

ASEAN has already punished the Myanmar junta for its inaction on the peace plan, declining to invite its officials to the bloc’s meetings.

At a meeting last week, ASEAN foreign ministers decided the generals would not be invited to ASEAN meetings until they achieve the goals set out in the consensus.

“[Myanmar’s] generals must act in a manner that demonstrates progress, so we will be able to make decisions,” Prak Sokonn said.

The envoy visited Myanmar in March and May. So far, he has only met with the regime’s leadership and their handpicked representatives. He still hasn’t been allowed to meet the country’s ousted and detained popular leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the same time, ASEAN has been criticized by rights groups and regime opponents for failing to make any real progress on the Myanmar issue more than one year on.

Following the recent foreign ministers’ meeting, the bloc acknowledged in a joint statement on Friday the lack of progress on its five-point crisis plan.

Prak Sokhonn dampened expectations for major progress in the short term, saying “even Superman cannot solve the Myanmar problem” at the press conference on Saturday.

“Issues cannot be solved by one meeting, by two meetings, by many years of meeting,” he said.