Myanmar’s Crisis & the World

ASEAN Envoy Scraps Planned Third Visit to Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 7 December 2022

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s special envoy on Myanmar has canceled his announced trip to the country, reflecting growing tensions between the regional bloc and the Southeast Asian country’s military regime.

Prak Sokhonn, Cambodian foreign minister, was appointed the bloc’s special envoy on Myanmar to help resolve the social and political turmoil that has engulfed the country in the wake of a military coup last year. Cambodia currently holds the regional group’s rotating chair position but is due to hand it over to Indonesia soon.

Luy David, secretary of state at Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Khmer Times on Monday that Prak Sokhonn wouldn’t be able to visit Myanmar due to time constraints and is due to attend the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels from Dec. 14.

“We cannot visit Myanmar for the third time because the time is too short and we will leave this opportunity for Indonesia as ASEAN’s chair next year to continue this work.

“Cambodia has tried to help resolve the political crisis in Myanmar and we have put a lot of effort into this political crisis already,” Luy David added.

Nearly three weeks ago, Prak Sokhonn said in a statement that he would visit Myanmar for the third time in “coming weeks” after the regime’s mass prisoner amnesty, which included some political activists detained since the coup.

In his statement, the foreign minister welcomed the amnesty as a sign of the regime’s good will in pursuing a peaceful solution to the Myanmar crisis. At the time, he said he expected his third visit would result in more progress on ASEAN’s peace plan for Myanmar. His previous trips to the country yielded few tangible results and his requests to meet with the country’s popular leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, were denied.

Last year the bloc adopted a plan, known as the Five Point Consensus (5PC), aimed at solving the crisis in its member Myanmar. However, the regime has failed to implement the points, which include a cessation of violence in the country. So far, the junta has killed more than 2,500 people for rejecting military rule.

Despite his official explanation, Prak Sokhonn’s cancelation has prompted speculation about the reason for the move. Time constraints and an EU meeting are not sound reasons for the envoy, who only recently expressed optimism about the outcome of a third visit to Myanmar, to abort the trip.

The Myanmar regime has remained quiet on the cancellation.

Observers believe the scrapping of the visit signals ASEAN’s frustration at the lack of movement on the regime side in implementing the plan. Ignoring two key provisions of the 5PC, the junta continues to commit atrocities—including killing civilians and torching villages during its raids—and refuses to engage with all parties concerned. Recently, it sentenced seven university students to death for their anti-regime activism.

It’s notable that during its recent ASEAN Summits in Phnom Penh, the bloc adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Review and Decision on the Implementation of the 5PC, saying it would serve as a “very important document” in guiding ASEAN’s collective efforts to address the Myanmar crisis going forward. The bloc warned the regime to abide by the plan or face tougher measures from ASEAN.

The warning is widely viewed as a response to critics who have chided ASEAN for failing to do more after the regime ignored the 5PC.

Following the summits, the junta announced the mass amnesty in a move many believe was designed to avert further pressure from ASEAN. However, the release failed to make an impression internationally, as it excluded thousands of political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In an unprecedented move, the bloc then banned the regime’s defense minister, General Mya Tun Oo, from the ASEAN Defense Ministers meeting late last month. That was followed by its latest step, the cancellation of the special envoy’s trip.