Asean special envoy meets Myanmar junta chief

Asean special envoy meets Myanmar junta chief
Myanmar's junta chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who ousted the elected government in a coup on Feb 1, 2021, presides over an army parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters file

Myanmar's junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, met with a special envoy from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), state media reported on Thursday (Jan 11), as Laos takes over chairing the bloc, which has encouraged peace efforts in the country.

The military ruler met Alounkeo Kittikhoun, the chair's envoy on the Myanmar crisis, amid frustration with the lack of commitment from the generals to forge peace under a plan agreed to among all Asean members, including Myanmar, in 2021.

Myanmar has seen a ceaseless cycle of violence since the military seized power from an elected government in a 2021 coup. Asean has repeatedly urged the junta to halt hostilities and implement its "five-point consensus".

The junta has refused to initiate dialogue with its opponents in a shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and a pro-democracy resistance movement, a key component of the agreement, calling them "terrorists".

Communist Laos has made no mention of the envoy's trip in its state-run media, or issued any statement on the meeting as Asean chair. Its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Violence has intensified in recent months as ethnic minority armies, mainly in northern Myanmar, step up efforts to drive the junta from their territories, capturing outposts and even a major commercial town on the border with China.

The military is facing a battle on multiple fronts against pro-democracy militias formed in the wake of a its fierce crackdown on nationwide protests.

While Myanmar's generals have been barred from high-level Asean meetings, the bloc has maintained relations with the junta, especially through the office of the special envoy, leadership of which rotates among the member states every year.

The state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported the two leaders discussed "efforts of the government to ensure peace and stability of the State and national reconciliation".

Min Aung Hlaing said his administration is "implementing the Asean five-point consensus adjusted with the roadmap of the State Administration Council", according to the newspaper.

The generals announced their own five-point roadmap immediately after seizing power. It differs starkly from the Asean plan, centred more on pandemic recovery and installing its own poll body to organise a new election once a state of emergency ends.

Kyaw Zaw, a spokesperson for the NUG, said the special envoy should meet all stakeholders, not just the junta.

"As three years have already passed, the junta leader has proved that they have no willingness to implement the five-point consensus. It is crucial to directly engage with the legitimate and lawful government NUG, ethnic armed groups, and resistance forces," Kyaw Zaw said.

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