Myanmar Junta Foreign Minister Barred From Upcoming ASEAN Meeting

By The Irrawaddy 7 July 2022

Myanmar junta foreign minister U Wunna Maung Lwin will again be barred from attending an upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia, as the military regime has made little progress on the implementation of the peace plan for Myanmar adopted by the ten-nation bloc.

In a press briefing with foreign diplomats and journalists on Wednesday, Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s foreign minister and ASEAN’s special envoy on Myanmar, said that Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, had already sent an invitation letter to Myanmar for the meeting, asking the regime to send a “non-political representative” instead of U Wunna Maung Lwin, according to the Khmer Times.

U Wunna Maung Lwin was previously barred from attending the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat held in Cambodia’s Siem Reap Province in February. Then, the junta declined to send a non-political representative.

Prak Sokhonn, who visited Myanmar at the end of June, said: “I also told him [U Wunna Maung Lwin] that such an invitation was made out of regret, but that the circumstances did not allow me to invite him personally to attend the meetings.”

ASEAN member Myanmar has been in political, social and economic turmoil since last year’s coup. The regime has killed over 2,000 people for rejecting military rule.

Last year, ASEAN adopted a peace plan known as the Five-Point Consensus, which included a call for an immediate cessation of violence and for inclusive dialogue among all stakeholders in the country. However, the regime has failed to implement most of the peace plan, leading to its ban on attending ASEAN summits since last year.

Despite barring Myanmar from summits, Prak Sokhonn was appointed as ASEAN’s special envoy on Myanmar in an attempt to coax the junta into following the peace plan.

However his recent trip to Myanmar, his second visit, failed to achieve any major breakthroughs as the regime did not allow him to meet detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Thursday, Prak Sokhonn claimed that the results of his visit were somewhat positive, saying that he “met with stakeholders and raised more topics and opened up a new way for political negotiations.”

During his visit, the special envoy also met with representatives of seven political parties in Myanmar and seven ethnic armed organizations (EAO) who had signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. All were handpicked by the junta to meet with him.

The special envoy noted that he did not get to meet with four political parties, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, or with three other EAOs.

During his visit, Prak Sokhonn met with coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw. The two sides exchanged views on situational updates, challenges in implementing some key documents and on implementing ASEAN humanitarian assistance to Myanmar.

The ASEAN envoy also requested the regime to return Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from prison to house detention.

One basic principle that all of the stakeholders could agree on was the urgent need for further assistance to Myanmar to find peace, preferably through a process of inclusive dialogue, noted Prak Sokhonn.

He said that he told the EAOs that ASEAN was just a coordinator or facilitator and cannot be a director or further involved as a party to the Myanmar conflict, which can only be solved by Myanmar through Myanmar-owned and Myanmar-led strategies.

He added that he didn’t have a divine medicine to resolve the Myanmar crisis and that he was not a magician.

“To be honest, what ASEAN and myself can accomplish is to facilitate the peace process by promoting inclusive dialogue acceptable by all sides,” said Prak Sokhonn.