OnPoint No. 4
(This article is a translation of the original Burmese language version that ISP-Myanmar posted on its Facebook page on December 21, 2021.)
Cambodia, the ASEAN chair of 2022, announced on December 15 that their Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prak Sokhonn had been appointed as the ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar. The new special envoy will continue working to remedy the failures of his predecessor, Brunei’s second minister for Foreign Affairs, Erywan Yusof, to effectively address the five-point consensus that the ASEAN countries have agreed upon.
∎ Preliminary Analysis
For all parties involved in the Myanmar crisis over the last 10 months since the military coup, the difficulty in finding any meaningful resolution to the crisis the current political preoccupation.
In this case, it’s a question of whether the situation would respond to international intervention or mediation. Humanitarian assistance is still urgently needed, because of the growing crisis resulting from the escalating civil wars, the casualties and social displacement crisi since the military coup, and the fallout from COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the political crisis, it is not currently possible to resolve the hostile situation between the main actors, and the priority must be the protection of civilians and humanitarian relief, given the difficulties involved in gaining the trust of the Myanmar public.
International intervention also failed – both the efforts of the United Nations and Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, have failed to achieve their aims.
The Cambodian foreign minister will undoubtedly face challenges. He will definitely need the support and coordination of key regional powers (China and India), the strong backing of ASEAN, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union (EU). In recent months, international diplomats were seen visiting Nay Pyi Taw. The former United States’ Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, visited in November, at the same time as China’s special envoy for Asia Sun Guoxiang and Japan’s Nippon Foundation president Yohei Sasakawa. Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai also made a day trip to Nay Pyi Taw. Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will take over the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN in early 2022, is also due for a visit to Myanmar.
There is widespread speculation that China may exert some influence over the Cambodian Special Envoy, but how China might choose to use this influence is uncertain. It is unclear whether China will rely on ASEAN Special Envoy or the UN-appointed Myanmar Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer to deal with Myanmar. If the international intervention does not take into account the voices and views of Myanmar’s people, and the various key forces involved in the current crisis, the current situation would likely just be dragged out even more.
∎ Scenario Forecast
As discussed in the Policy Editorial No. 2, “A Roadmap for the ASEAN Special Envoy’s Journey” by ISP-Myanmar on August 30, the new ASEAN Special Envoy needs to focus on trust-building initially, rather than gaining the political advantage. To address the political crisis, the priority is likely to be given to protecting civilians (broadly speaking, the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar as mentioned in the ASEAN’s five-point consensus) and humanitarian assistance. The most important point is that the new ASEAN Special Envoy should be coordinated with the UN Special Envoy, the Chinese Special Envoy and the Japanese Special Envoy, as well as taking into account the voices and views of Myanmar’s citizens.
“A Roadmap for the ASEAN Special Envoy’s Journey” can be read at the following link:
ISP’s OnPoint section aims to provide a concise preliminary analysis and scenario forecast on the current significant events and developments.