US Dismisses Myanmar Junta’s Election Plan

By The Irrawaddy 3 August 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has dismissed the Myanmar junta’s election plan outlined on Sunday. The US said the junta was playing for time with its two-year election timeframe and Blinken encouraged ASEAN to appoint an envoy to broker a dialogue in Myanmar.

The regime’s announcement is “a call for ASEAN to have to step up its effort because it’s clear that the Burmese junta is just stalling for time and wants to keep prolonging the calendar to its own advantage,” said a senior US official, using Myanmar’s former name of Burma.

Myanmar soldiers patrol around Mandalay city on Feb. 3, following the coup. / The Irrawaddy

Indonesia urged the junta on Monday to approve the appointment of an ASEAN special envoy and said little progress had been made on a plan to promote talks between the regime and opposition forces in Myanmar. The choice of envoy has been a contentious issue.

Talking to media by videoconference, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the regional bloc had made “no significant progress” on implementing a five-point plan announced in April to stop the turmoil in Myanmar.

The delay “does ASEAN no good” and, if the inaction continues, the issue should be returned to regional leaders to provide direction, she said, according to Reuters.

Retno did not specify who had been selected for the post of envoy, but diplomats told Reuters that Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, was strongly favored to take the position.

On the weekend, Myanmar military ruler Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the regime wanted Thailand’s former deputy foreign minister Virasakdi Futrakul as envoy, but “new proposals were released and we could not keep moving onwards”.

“Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar,” the general said.

Myanmar has shown little willingness to adopt ASEAN’s five-point plan, instead referring to its own plans for the country’s future. In a speech on Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing pledged to hold elections by 2023.

Retno said ASEAN must provide immediate humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, as well as explore a mechanism for sharing COVID-19 vaccines.

“We must not be silent and allow the suffering of the Myanmar people to continue,” she said.

Without revealing the name of the envoy proposed, Retno stressed that the envoy should be able to start work immediately, and be guaranteed access to the relevant parties within Myanmar. It is still unknown whether the envoy will have access to detained ousted leaders including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint.

Retno also said that if the envoy’s meetings failed to result in any concrete steps to take the consensus forward, Indonesia would propose that the matter be put before ASEAN leaders again for further action.

ASEAN’s five-point consensus calls for the immediate cessation of violence; for constructive dialogue among all concerned; for the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar; for the special envoy to visit Myanmar to meet all stakeholders; and for the regional bloc to provide humanitarian assistance.

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