PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the conflict-torn Southeast Asian country have been hampered by the country’s recent executions of four political activists, the country said on Saturday. Cambodian Foreign Minister.
Prak Sokhonn, speaking in his capacity as special envoy to Myanmar of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned that further executions would force the regional group to reconsider how he engages with Myanmar.
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 due to its inability to cooperate with an agreed plan last year. last to work for the restoration of peace.
Myanmar’s military rulers initially agreed to the plan, a five-point consensus, but have since made little effort to implement it. The country has slipped into what some UN experts have described as a civil war.
Prak Sokhonn was speaking at a press conference after a week-long meeting in Cambodia of ASEAN foreign ministers. The meeting’s final communiqué, released on Friday, included a section criticizing Myanmar for its lack of progress in ending the violence there, but with weaker language than several countries had hoped.
On Saturday, he described the executions of Burmese dissidents as a “setback” to his mediation efforts and said the nine ASEAN members outside Myanmar had “agreed to see how things develop in the weeks and months coming “.
He said that “if more executions take place, then things will have to be reconsidered,” suggesting that ASEAN is ready to reduce its engagement with Myanmar’s military government. ASEAN has been criticized by some of its own members as well as other countries for putting too little pressure on Myanmar to implement the five-point consensus.
In February last year, Myanmar’s military overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, then violently suppressed widespread protests against her actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force against peaceful protesters, some opponents of the military regime took up arms.
Myanmar’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Friday saying it opposes a reference in the ASEAN joint statement to a “lack of progress” in implementing the five-point consensus because ” this overlooks Myanmar’s efforts in its implementation”.
He also said the four recently executed men were not punished because they were political activists, but because they were “convicted of orchestrating, instigating, supporting, arming and committing terrorist activities. which have caused enormous loss of innocent lives”.
Prak Sokhonn said progress had been made on humanitarian aid to Myanmar, but not on the other main points of the ASEAN plan: stopping the violence and opening a political dialogue between all contending parties in the country.
“The only will I see now is to keep fighting,” he said. “Why? Because of the lack of trust and the execution of activists, whether legal or illegal.
“And without that trust, the fight will continue and the political process will never start because no one will come if they fear for their life,” he said.
While the men’s executions were a matter of law for Myanmar, he said, they were a setback to building trust between Myanmar’s warring forces.
He also explained that his mandate as ASEAN’s special envoy 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 called the groups “terrorists” and even said that any contact with them is illegal.
“While ASEAN member states and external partners are sincerely interested in helping Myanmar restore normalcy, they should not encourage engagement with terrorist groups such as the NUG and PDF and should avoid any action that could encourage terrorism,” Myanmar’s foreign ministry statement said on Friday.
Prak Sokhonn declined to say on Saturday whether he had been in contact with the opposition group, but said he was free as special envoy to engage with anyone outside Myanmar.
Peck brought from Bangkok, Thailand