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PHNOM PENH – Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn will not pay a third visit to Myanmar this month as he previously intended, said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Dec. 8.
Sokhonn, in his capacity as ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, has visited the conflict-ridden country twice this year to try to find diplomatic solutions to put Myanmar back on the path towards peace.
His visits mostly focused on pushing for the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus (5PC), a political arrangement agreed upon in April 2021 by all ASEAN leaders, including Myanmar’s Min Aung Hlaing, that particularly called for an “immediate cessation of violence,” seeking a “peaceful solution in the interests of the people,” and ensuring that the Special Envoy “meet with all parties concerned.”
But the Myanmar junta, which staged a coup in February 2021 to overthrow the elected Parliament, has made no effort to follow any of the ASEAN’s guidance. While Sokhonn has met representatives of the junta at each of his visits, he was barred from meeting State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been jailed since the coup.
In the meantime, the situation in Myanmar has kept worsening. Clashes between the Tatmadaw – the official name of the Burmese armed forces – and pro-democracy militias keep increasing, causing civilian deaths throughout the country. No side takes the ascendancy over the other, suggesting a long-term conflict.
The U.N. has estimated that more than one million people had to abandon their homes to flee from violence. Judicial repression also increases: On Nov. 30, a military court sentenced to death over 10 pro-democracy activists for their alleged involvement in what they call a “spring revolution.”
Chum Sounry, the ministry’s spokesman, said that Sokhonn had intended to pay a third working visit to Myanmar by the end of this month but the plan will not go ahead now.
“Unfortunately, due to time constraints, especially the upcoming ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels, he cannot materialize his tentative plan,” he added.
“The Special Envoy remains committed to helping Myanmar return to normalcy and looks forward to another opportunity to engage in this ASEAN endeavor.”
In a statement released during the ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh last month, the leaders of the regional bloc agreed to stick to the 5PC despite little progress has been made so far. They reiterated their commitment to helping assist Myanmar in finding a peaceful and durable solution to the current crisis.
The bloc’s leaders also “reaffirmed that Myanmar remains an integral part of ASEAN.”
In a report released last month, Sokhonn also raised the need to start a political dialogue between rival parties, to define concerned parties and call for compromise among factions.
But Cambodia’s actions to assist Myanmar will come to an end soon as Indonesia is taking over the ASEAN chairmanship in January 2023.
Lay Sopheavotey contributed to the story.