Indonesia urges Myanmar to approve appointment of ASEAN envoy

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Indonesia’s foreign minister urged Myanmar on Monday (Aug 2) to approve the appointment of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy and said little progress had been made on a plan to promote talks between Myanmar’s rival sides.

Six months after the military toppled Myanmar’s democratically elected government, ASEAN foreign ministers met on Monday to finalise the envoy tasked with ending violence and promoting dialogue between the junta and its opponents.

Talking to media by video conference, Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi said the group had made “no significant progress” on implementing its five-point plan to stop the turmoil in Myanmar, which was announced in April.

The delay “does ASEAN no good” and, if inaction went on, the issue should be returned to leaders to give directions, she said.

Myanmar has been racked by a deadly crackdown on protests, economic collapse and a refugee exodus since the Feb 1 coup. A surge in coronavirus infections has overwhelmed its health system, worsening the humanitarian crisis in the past month.

Myanmar’s military ruler, Min Aung Hlaing, said in a speech on Sunday that the military regime wanted Thailand’s former deputy foreign minister Virasakdi Futrakul as envoy, but “new proposals were released and we could not keep moving onwards”.

“Myanmar is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar,” he said.

ASEAN operates under consensus decision-making principles. This means Myanmar will have to support the envoy’s appointment, diplomats said.

Myanmar has shown little willingness to adopt ASEAN’s five-point plan, instead referring to its own plans for Myanmar’s future. In a speech on Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing repeated a pledge to hold elections by 2023.

Retno said ASEAN must provide immediate humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, as well as explore a mechanism for sharing COVID-19 vaccines.

“We must not be silent and allow the suffering of the Myanmar people to continue,” she said.

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