Cambodian foreign minister Prak Sokhonn said there was no lack of commitment from the other ASEAN member states to solving the ongoing Myanmar crisis, but that the fragile situation could not be remedied easily due to the decades-long protracted conflicts now enmeshed in it.
Sokhonn was addressing a special ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on October 27, held at the ASEAN Secretariat in the Indonesian capital Jakarta to deliberate ways to better implement the bloc’s five-point consensus (5PC) reached in April last year, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The meeting, which Sokhonn chaired, aimed to generate recommendations or proposals for the ASEAN leadership’s consideration at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings scheduled for November in Phnom Penh.
The ministry said a non-political representative from Myanmar had been invited to the November meetings but no response was forthcoming, noting that the predominantly Buddhist country remains effectively suspended from full participation in the bloc for now.
“Undoubtedly, the situation on the ground remains critical and fragile, and this is not due to a lack of commitment or effort on the part of ASEAN and the Special Envoy, but because of the complexity and difficulty of Myanmar’s decades-long protracted conflicts, which has been further exacerbated by the current political crisis,” it said in a statement.
“Despite these great challenges, those present at the meeting agreed that ASEAN should not be discouraged, but rather find itself even more determined to help Myanmar bring about a peaceful solution as soon as possible,” it continued.
Sokhonn, it said, is strongly committed to advancing the three priorities that Cambodia had set out since the beginning of its chairmanship in 2022: Ending or reducing violence,facilitating humanitarian assistance delivery and creating an enabling environment for political dialogue among all stakeholders.
According to a statement from the ASEAN ministers and other representatives, the bloc’s diplomats have reiterated their full support for the “tireless efforts” that Cambodia as the ASEAN chair has undertaken this past year, including those spearheaded by Sokhonn as the ASEAN special envoy on Myanmar.
“The time to act is now and ASEAN needs to act together while respecting the sovereignty, territorial integrity and interests of the people of Myanmar as the core of any solution,” Sokhonn said.
On October 26, ASEAN issued a statement expressing grave concerns over the recent escalation of violence in Myanmar, including the bombing at Insein prison, hostilities in Karen State and the recent report of an air strike in Kachin State allegedly targeting a civilian gathering, which killed and injured dozens of people.
In the October statement, ASEAN foreign ministers said all concerned parties in Myanmar “have a stake in ending the current worsening political crisis that has caused the loss of many lives, severe destruction to the country and long-lasting effects to its economy, therefore making it of the utmost necessity and urgency that a dialogue process commence as soon as possible”.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said ASEAN endeavoured to find a solution to the Myanmar crisis since it began, and that they should persevere even though the issues are complicated and the disputes in some cases have lasted for decades now.
“ASEAN needs to continue their efforts along with the international community in encouraging all concerned parties in Myanmar to engage in a discussion to find a solution to the crisis in an inclusive manner with the highest priorities placed on the wishes of Myanmar’s people,” he said.