ASEAN Appoints Brunei Diplomat as Special Envoy for Myanmar Reuters


© Reuters. Brunei’s second foreign minister, Erywan Pehin Yusof, delivered a speech at the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on September 30, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tom Allard

JAKARTA (Reuters)-The organization said on Wednesday that the Foreign Minister of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has appointed Brunei’s second foreign minister, Erywan Yusof, as the special envoy to Myanmar.

According to the communiqué issued by the EU foreign ministers after their meetings on Monday and Wednesday, Eriwan’s mission is to end violence in Myanmar and initiate dialogue between military rulers and their opponents in this crisis-torn country.

The diplomat will also oversee the humanitarian aid package, but did not announce the details of the aid. On the contrary, the communiqué called on the ASEAN Humanitarian Aid Coordination Center to begin “policy guidance” work.

Six months ago, the Myanmar military overthrew a democratically elected government, and the country fell into turmoil as security forces suppressed protests and the economy collapsed. With the surge in the number of coronavirus infections and the overwhelming health system, the humanitarian crisis has worsened in the past month.

The United Nations and many countries, including the United States and China, urge ASEAN, and 10 member states including Myanmar, to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to restore stability in Myanmar.

The appointment of a special envoy was at the core of these efforts, but it was delayed for several months due to serious differences within the Southeast Asian Group.

Diplomats said that at a meeting of foreign ministers where there are sometimes quarrels on Monday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi questioned the military regime’s status in ASEAN because it hesitated to nominate Eriwan.

After further negotiations and an unscheduled meeting on Wednesday, the special envoy came to a confirmation.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a separate statement that the special envoy will start work soon and “to contact all parties” in Myanmar. Many Myanmar opposition figures, including the expelled leader Aung San Suu Kyi, are being held at home or in prison.

Two sources familiar with the talks said that representatives of the military government who attended the meeting also rejected ASEAN member states’ requests to give humanitarian workers the freedom to provide assistance to areas they deem most in need.

Critics accuse ASEAN of giving legitimacy to the Burmese military government by accepting its representatives at group meetings.

But Indonesia’s statement emphasized a subtle change in the wording of the joint communiqué, so it “cannot be regarded as an acknowledgement of the military government”.

The Myanmar military government could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Sunday, the head of the military government, Min Aung Lai, announced that he had been appointed as prime minister and reiterated his promise to hold elections by 2023.

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