The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy to Myanmar, Prak Sokhonn, began his second trip to Myanmar on Wednesday to mediate the country’s political crisis despite being denied access to major stakeholders, prompting observers to question the value of his visit.
On Tuesday, the junta’s deputy information minister, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told the media that the envoy would be allowed to meet with the regime’s chairman, Snr. General Min Aung Hlaing, during his five-day visit, along with other members of the military regime, ethnic armed groups and individuals from “certain political parties”.
The junta said Prak Sokhonn would hold a meeting on Friday with the 10 ethnic armed groups that recently met for peace talks with Min Aung Hlaing – seven of which have signed a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the government since 2015, and three that have not. The talks were boycotted by Myanmar’s main ethnic armies due to an apparent lack of inclusiveness.
On Wednesday, Karen Peace Council (KNLA-PC) spokesman Colonel Saw Kyaw Nyunt, whose group is among those meeting Prak Sokhonn later this week, suggested the envoy should meet more than those which have been endorsed by the junta if it hopes to break the country’s political stalemate.
“I urge him to meet, as a special envoy, with everyone involved in the political crisis in Myanmar,” he said.
“Well, also [push to] find out what ASEAN could do to establish a political dialogue that includes all stakeholders. And then, as a next step, what ASEAN could do to bring about nationwide peace talks. We have all of this in mind.
Prior to the trip, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen – whose country holds the rotating ASEAN presidency – and Prak Sokhonn had requested permission for the envoy to meet the leader of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD). Aung San Suu Kyi and party chairman Win Myint, but were refused by the junta. The pair are among several NLD officials who were arrested immediately after the February 1, 2021 military coup and face multiple charges widely seen as politically motivated.
During an emergency meeting on the situation in Myanmar in April 2021, Min Aung Hlaing had agreed on a so-called five-point consensus to end the violence in the country, which included a meeting with all parties. stakeholders to resolve the political crisis, but failed to deliver on that promise. Observers say peace cannot be achieved without including NLD leaders and other high places in power in the process – concerns that were echoed by Colonel Saw Kyaw Nyunt in his interview with RFA.
RFA’s multiple attempts to contact Zaw Min Tun to comment on Prak Sokhonn’s visit went unanswered on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, the junta’s spokesperson said “those on trial” will not be allowed to meet the ASEAN envoy, adding that the military regime is “working with certain groups” to end the conflict in Myanmar, which has claimed the lives of 2,039 civilians since the coup, according to the Bangkok-based NGO Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
“The main point of the agreement is that we are talking with practical organizations to reduce the tensions of the armed conflict,” Zaw Min Tun said at the time, referring to the 10 ethnic armed groups who met Min Aung Hlaing for peace talks.
“Basic agreements were reached during the negotiations. Further discussions will take place at a later date. We paved the way [for Prak Sokhonn] to meet the right people, except those who are still being prosecuted and those who are still under the law.
The army said it planned to allow the envoy to meet “certain members of the NLD” during his visit, but did not specify who they are.
When asked who would be talking to Prak Sokhonn, NLD central working committee member Kyaw Htwe said he could not comment on the matter.
Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the office of the shadow chairman of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), Duwa Lashi La, told RFA he was “not optimistic” about the outcome of Prak’s trip. Sokhonn if the envoy did not meet with key stakeholders in the country.
“It is impossible for the ASEAN special representative’s efforts to be successful if he only holds talks with the junta and is denied the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders during his visit,” he said. -he declares.
“I don’t expect there to be any benefits for the people of Myanmar.”
Kyaw Zaw reiterated his calls for Prak Sokhonn to meet “everyone who is involved in the conflict” during his visit, “not just those chosen by the military”.
Myanmar-based political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe also dismissed the likelihood that a solution to the country’s political crisis would be found if the opposition were denied a seat at the negotiating table.
“The kind of result people want won’t come if things continue like this. It’s a one-sided approach to finding a political solution [only] through dialogue with pro-military groups and those close to the military,” he said.
“The desires and views of people on the other side of the issue are ignored. That’s why I don’t think the solution people are hoping for will come out of the visit.
According to a statement issued by the Cambodian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, Prak Sokhonn will discuss the implementation of the five-point consensus, the provision of humanitarian aid and ways to facilitate political dialogue after holding talks with all stakeholders.
ASEAN special envoy first visited Myanmar in March, but has been criticized for not meeting Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, and for not making meaningful progress in his mission in Myanmar.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.