All Eyes on Myanmar (5): ASEAN’s Special Envoy Expected to “Build Trust” Amid Continuing Protests

All Eyes on Myanmar (5): ASEAN’s Special Envoy Expected to “Build Trust” Amid Continuing Protests

 

Continuing its efforts to tackle the “deteriorating socio-political crisis and to find a peaceful solution on Myanmar” through the mutually agreed “Five-Point Consensus” (presented here: https://www.irsea.ro/ASEAN-Leaders-Meeting/), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has appointed the second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei, Dato Erywan Yusof, to be Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar.

The decision has been taken during the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on August 2. In their Joint Communique, the ASEAN Ministers stated that the Bruneian Special Envoy “will begin his duties in Myanmar to build trust and confidence with full access to all parties concerned”. The ASEAN high dignitaries have released a Twitter message affirming that Dato Erywan will “start his work on the implementation on the Five-Point Consensus”. According to the Joint Statement, the Special Envoy is expected to work on building trust and confidence with full access to all parties concerned and providing a clear timeline on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus before the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting”, most likely to be held in July 2022.

Naturally, the on-going situation in Myanmar, “including reports of fatalities and violence”, represents a “concern” for ASEAN, which reaffirmed its “support for a more visible and enhanced role of ASEAN to support Myanmar.”

According to Sidharto Suryodipuro, head of ASEAN Cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, “the joint statement doesn’t amount to ASEAN’s recognition of the military government”. The Indonesian diplomat urged Myanmar to “work together in the context of ASEAN because the success of the special envoy will also be Myanmar’s success in settling a crisis that has become multilayered.”

According to the UN spokesman, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has welcomed the appointment of the ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, describing it as“an important step towards the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus”. The Secretary General also called on the military “to respect the will of the people, refrain from acts of violence and repression, and act in the interest of peace, sustainable development and human rights”.

Obviously, ASEAN’s support for Myanmar, including the Five-Point Consensus, along with the appointment of a mutually agreed upon Special Envoy represents a positive and unanimously welcomed evolution that will hopefully ameliorate the fragile situation of the Southeast Asian country following the military coup. On the other hand, the Envoy’s “full access to all parties concerned” may prove difficult, provided some of the country’s political leaders are currently under detention.

In the same key, provided the complex situation in the country, “all parties concerned” may also refer to the reportedly massive protests of the population of Myanmar, the civil disobedience movements appeared in the aftermath of the coup or the various ethnic militias present for decades in the peripheral regions of Myanmar. It is not excluded that the self-styled “National Unity Government of Myanmar”, formed of several leaders of the protests and ethnic minorities of the countries may count among the “parties concerned”.

In the meanwhile, the protests continued on Sunday, August 8, 2021, also in celebration of the democratic riots dubbed “8-8-88” of August 1988, similarly organised against a military junta at the time.

In a press statement released on the same date, Min Aug Hlaing, military's most senior general who assumed the post of interim prime minister and represented Myanmar at ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in April this year, refrained to comment on the on-going protests, as well as the new appointment of ASEAN’s Special Envoy, praising, instead, the 54th celebration of the founding of ASEAN in Bangkok.

It was, indeed, “the collective will of the nations of Southeast Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity” that lead to the establishment of ASEAN back in 1967. It is, undoubtedly, the same collective will for “friendship and cooperation” that moves a more mature and developed ASEAN, more than five decades later, to successfully continue its efforts toward peace, freedom and prosperity, for all its members alike through substantial and united action.

Naturally, such an action can only be considered successful once a solution representing the agreement of “all parties concerned” has been identified, mutually agreed and implemented bona fide. For the moment, one could talk about an auspicious beginning once all stakeholders agree to come to the negotiating table. After all, a long-lasting, sustainable, peaceful and free Myanmar is only possible as an expression of the will of its people.

G.N.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, position or view of IRSEA.