Asean appoints Brunei diplomat as envoy to Myanmar

Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Erywan Yusof defended his country’s new laws imposing the death penalty for gay sex and adultery in a letter to the United Nations. — Reuters file pic
Brunei’s Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Erywan Yusof defended his country’s new laws imposing the death penalty for gay sex and adultery in a letter to the United Nations. — Reuters file pic

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JAKARTA, Aug 4 — Foreign ministers from the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) have appointed Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar, the group said today.

Erywan has been tasked with ending violence in Myanmar, 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 the bloc’s foreign ministers.

The diplomat will also oversee a humanitarian aid package, although no details of the assistance 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 and its economy collapsed. The 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 in Myanmar.

The appointment of an envoy was central to those efforts but was delayed for months amid deep divisions within the Southeast Asian bloc.

During a sometimes fractious foreign ministers meeting on Monday, Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi questioned the military regime’s status in Asean as it baulked at Erywan’s nomination, diplomats said.

Following further negotiations and yesterday’s unscheduled meeting, the special envoy was confirmed.

The military regime’s representative at the meeting 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.

Myanmar’s military government could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Sunday, the head of the junta, Min Aung Hlaing, announced he had been appointed prime minister and repeated a pledge to hold elections by 2023. — Reuters

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