ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar warns of further executions

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Phnom Penh, Cambodia (AP) — Myanmar’s neighbors said on Saturday that efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy in the conflict-torn Southeast Asian nation were stymied by the country’s recent executions of four political activists, Cambodia’s foreign minister said on Saturday. was interrupted, Cambodia’s foreign minister said on Saturday.

Praak Sokhon, speaking in his capacity as Myanmar’s special envoy to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned that further executions would force the regional grouping to reconsider how it interacted with fellow Myanmarese members. hooks up.

Cambodia is the current chair of the regional grouping, and Myanmar is not welcome to send members of its ruling military government to ASEAN meetings because it failed to cooperate with a plan agreed last year to work towards restoring peace. Used to be.

Myanmar’s military rulers initially agreed to the plan, a five-point agreement, but have made little effort to implement it since then. The country has slipped into a situation that some UN experts have described as a civil war.

Praak Sokhon was speaking at a news conference after a week-long meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Cambodia. The final communique of the meeting issued on Friday included a section criticizing Myanmar for its lack of progress in ending the violence there, but with weaker language than in many countries.

On Saturday, he described the executions of Myanmar’s dissidents as a “setback” to his mediation efforts and said nine ASEAN members in addition to Myanmar “agreed to see how things develop in the coming weeks and months”. Will be.”

“If there are more executions, things will have to be reconsidered,” he said, suggesting that ASEAN is ready to reduce its engagement with Myanmar’s military government. ASEAN has been criticized by some of its members as well as other countries for putting too little pressure on Myanmar to implement the five-point agreement.

Myanmar’s military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February last year and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against his actions. Some opponents of the military regime took up arms after security forces applied deadly force against peaceful protesters.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday saying it objected to the reference to the “lack of progress” in implementing the five-point agreement in the ASEAN joint statement because “it ignores Myanmar’s efforts on its implementation.” “

It also said that the four people killed recently were not punished because they were political activists, but because they were found guilty of “masterminding, abetting, supporting, giving arms and committing terrorist activities, thereby causing innocent People lost their lives.”

Praak Sokhon said progress has been made on providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar, but not on other key points of ASEAN’s plan: stopping violence and opening up a political dialogue between all competing parties in the country.

“All I see now is to keep fighting,” he said. “Why? Because of the lack of trust and the hanging of activists, whether legal or illegal.”

“And without this trust the fighting will continue and the political process will never start because no one will come if they fear for their lives,” he said.

While the men’s executions were a matter of law for Myanmar to decide, he said, they were a setback to build trust among Myanmar’s warring forces.

He also pointed out that his mandate as Special Envoy of ASEAN was to engage with all stakeholders, including organized opposition to Myanmar’s military rulers.

Opposition forces in Myanmar operate as an underground alternative administration, the National Unity Government, and its affiliated armed wing, the People’s Defense Force.

Myanmar’s military government has branded the groups as “terrorists” and even declared contact with them illegal.

“If ASEAN member states and external partners really want to help Myanmar restore normalcy, they should not be encouraged to associate with terrorist groups such as the NUG and PDF,” Myanmar’s foreign ministry statement said on Friday. And any action that promotes terrorism should be avoided.”

Praak Sokhon declined to say on Saturday whether he had been in contact with the opposition group, but announced he was free to engage with anyone outside Myanmar as a special envoy.


Peck reported from Bangkok, Thailand

Grant Peck and David Rising, Associated Press