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Little trust in ASEAN as bloc appoints Myanmar envoy

Move is widely seen as a delaying tactic lending support to the military regime

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: August 05, 2021 05:59 AM GMT

Updated: August 05, 2021 06:17 AM GMT

Little trust in ASEAN as bloc appoints Myanmar envoy

Protesters prepare to burn the ASEAN flag as they take part in a flash mob demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on June 14. (Photo: AFP)

Despite the United Nations and some countries hailing ASEAN’s appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar as a breakthrough, the people of the conflict-torn country have little hope in the bloc’s ability to solve its crisis following February's military coup.

Many people in Myanmar and beyond have expressed their lost hope in the 10-member bloc of Southeast Asian nations on Facebook and Twitter.

“We should not have expected much from either ASEAN or the UN and we should depend on ourselves,” one netizen wrote.

“People of Myanmar have no hope from ASEAN and we believe it’s another delay tactic by China and ASEAN for a ruthless junta,” said another.

Such reactions come after ASEAN appointed Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar on Aug. 4.

Erywan is tasked with ending violence and opening dialogue between the military regime and opposition groups in the beleaguered country, and he will also oversee a humanitarian aid package.

It is also unnerving that a minister of an absolute monarchy that does not abide by international human rights standards has been tasked with convincing a murderous army to respect these principles

The UN and many countries including the US and China have urged ASEAN to move forward diplomatic efforts to return to stability.

However, the appointment of an envoy had been delayed for three months amid deep divisions in the regional bloc.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the special envoy appointment was “delay and twiddle thumbs for six months. Then appoint a reserve second foreign minister, from arguably the weakest ASEAN member in terms of foreign policy, as envoy.”

Southeast Asian parliamentarians have called on the envoy to take immediate and decisive action to put an end to the military’s bloodshed and chaos.

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“It is also unnerving that a minister of an absolute monarchy that does not abide by international human rights standards has been tasked with convincing a murderous army to respect these principles,” said Kasit Piromya, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

A special summit in Jakarta in late April attended by the junta leader reached a five-point consensus which included ending violence, constructive talks among all parties concerned and sending aid to Myanmar.

Critics said the consensus lacked a time frame and follow-up plan as Min Aung Hlaing himself, now named prime minister of the caretaker government, said they will consider it only when stability returns.

On June 4, Erywan along with ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi visited Myanmar and met Min Aung Hlaing and other senior officials. But they did not meet with any opposition groups nor the National Unity Government formed by ousted elected lawmakers.

A day after their visit, protesters in Mandalay burned the ASEAN flag and accused the bloc of giving legitimacy to military rule.

More than 900 people have been killed by the military since the Feb. 1 coup in a bloody crackdown against anti-coup protesters and civil resistance groups in urban and rural areas.

The conflict-torn nation is also struggling with a severe Covid outbreak which claimed more than 6,000 lives in July alone amid a collapsing healthcare system and the military’s targeting of health workers and restrictions on private oxygen plants.

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