UN Envoy on Myanmar Calls on ASEAN to Engage ‘All Voices’

By The Irrawaddy 4 April 2022

A UN special envoy who attracted Myanmar people’s fury by suggesting they seek “negotiation” with the country’s military junta has urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to pay attention to all parties involved in its approach to solving the crisis in Myanmar.

The envoy, Noleen Heyzer, met with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and the country’s ASEAN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Prak Sokhonn, last week. Myanmar is an ASEAN member and Cambodia holds the 10-member bloc’s rotating chair for this year.

During the meeting the envoy stressed “it was paramount for ASEAN to listen carefully to all voices on the ground in supporting durable peace and national reconciliation,” according to a statement by the UN.

“The Special Envoy emphasized that indicators and results on the ground were urgently needed, adding any goodwill towards protecting the people of Myanmar and their livelihoods needed to be demonstrated in concrete terms,” the release said.

Myanmar has been in social and political turmoil since last year’s military coup, which has reversed all of the democratic reforms that the Southeast Asian country enjoyed for the preceding 10 years. The majority of the country’s population has rejected the coup by all means, including armed resistance, and the junta’s brutal response has killed more than 1,700 people so far. It has also launched airstrikes and torched villages accused of harboring resistance groups. International observers say the country is on the verge of being a failed state.

In February, Heyzer made Myanmar people furious with her comment that those defying the military must negotiate a power-sharing arrangement as a solution. Having witnessed how brutal the Myanmar regime is, the majority of Myanmar people now take it for granted that any attempt to negotiate or share power with the junta is nothing more than a direct insult to the people killed by the regime. Furthermore, as the majority are rejecting military rule in the country by any means at this moment, while also demanding justice, Myanmar people unsurprisingly took the UN envoy’s “power sharing” recommendation as a slap in the face.

The press release about the meeting in Cambodia said the special envoy continued to stress the urgent need for a coherent international backing for a unified regional approach supportive of a Myanmar-led process “reflective of the will of the people.”

“She will also continue to engage with all key stakeholders, focusing on helping articulate the bottom-lines and conditions needed for momentum towards any talks about talks in the greater interest of peace, stability and democracy,” it added.

The UN envoy’s meeting in Cambodia came after the ASEAN envoy visited Myanmar last month to visit with regime boss Min Aung Hlaing, prompting criticism that the tour would legitimize the regime. Upon his return from the trip, Prak Sokhonn admitted that the Myanmar issue was complicated and would take a long time to solve, as the “stakeholders were not ready to cooperate and still insist on fighting and eliminating one another.”

Prior to his visit, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Myanmar and met the junta chief, becoming the first outside figure to see the regime head, who has been targeted for international sanctions and condemnation for his bloody post-coup attacks on his opponents. Hun Sen’s visit was seriously condemned by Myanmar people, too.

Neither Hun Sen nor Prak Sokhonn met Myanmar’s detained democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or any members of the country’s shadow National Unity Government, which many in Myanmar take as their legitimate government.

During her meeting with Hun Sen, Noleen Heyzer urged the prime minister to leverage his influence on Myanmar’s regime chief to de-escalate violence and serve the greater interests of the people.

However, a few days before the UN envoy encouraged Hun Sen to coax concessions from Min Aung Hlaing, the junta chief vowed to crush all resistance in the country.

Currently, the regime’s troops are raiding and torching villages in Upper Myanmar under the name of clearance operations.

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