BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – ASEAN foreign ministers have named YB Dato Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s second minister of foreign affairs, as the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar, the group said Wednesday.
The announcement was made after days of deadlock over the nomination, with ministers trying to agree on a candidate that would be acceptable to all ASEAN members and the Myanmar junta.
Dato Erywan has been tasked with ending violence in Myanmar and opening dialogue between the military rulers and their opponents in the crisis-torn country, according to a communique released after meetings on Monday and Wednesday by ASEAN’s foreign ministers.
The envoy will also oversee a humanitarian aid package, although no details were announced. Instead, the communique called for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance to start work on “policy guidance”.
Myanmar’s military toppled a democratically elected government six months ago, plunging the country into turmoil as security forces suppressed protests, killing hundreds. The economy has collapsed and a humanitarian crisis worsened in the past month as coronavirus infections surged, overwhelming the health system.
The United Nations and many countries, including the United States and China, have urged ASEAN, whose 10 members include Myanmar, to spearhead diplomatic efforts to restore stability.
The appointment of an envoy was central to those efforts but was delayed for months amid deep divisions within ASEAN.
Diplomatic sources said Myanmar initially rejected Dato Erywan’s nomination on Monday, but eventually agreed to the appointment after pressure from ASEAN during negotiations on Wednesday.
The military government’s representative also resisted requests from ASEAN members to grant humanitarian workers freedom to deliver aid to areas they believed needed it most, said two sources familiar with the talks.
The bloc announced a five-point plan back in April that was meant to pave the way for dialogue and an end to hostilities in Myanmar, but the junta has shown little sign of following through on this.
In Wednesday’s communiqué, ASEAN said the special envoy will begin his work by “building trust and confidence with full access to all parties concerned”.
The envoy is also expected to provide a clear timeline on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus before the next foreign ministers’ meeting in October.
On Sunday, Myanmar’s army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, announced he had been appointed prime minister and repeated a pledge to hold elections by 2023.
— With additional reporting from Reuters