Asean Envoy Prak Sokhonn Says No Easy Solution to Myanmar Conflict

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Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn speaks to reporters following his return from Myanmar on March 23, 2022. (Foreign Affairs Ministry)

Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said Wednesday there was no easy solution to the civil strife in Myanmar and that the military junta and groups opposed to the February 2021 coup wanted nothing short of victory over the other.

Sokhonn, who was selected as Asean’s special envoy to Myanmar, visited the country where he met with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar foreign minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, a local activist, diplomats and U.N. agencies during the trip.

The foreign minister spoke at a press conference on Wednesday where he said there was no quick fix to the conflict in Myanmar and that he could not solve all the problems in the country.

“In conclusion, the assessment of diplomats and experts in general was that it is clear that Myanmar’s various political actors are not yet ready for these negotiations,” he said. “We want the partners to reconcile [but they] do not want to reconcile, it is the most difficult.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen went to Myanmar in January in a highly criticized visit, which saw local protests. Hun Sen has faced criticism for his outreach to Myanmar, which critics say legitimizes the junta.

Sokhonn added that all sides in Myanmar seemed committed to continuing armed conflict and that their goal was to win over each other.

The minister also said he was aware of the criticism of his visit, according to Reuters.

“I know of various levels of expectations on the visit, I also know of people who want to see a ceasefire and me meeting all involved parties, and the return to normalcy of democracy,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

Ahead of Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar, the junta had dashed any suggestions of meeting with the National League for Democracy, including party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sokhonn said he had asked the junta leadership to release Sean Turnell, an Australian economics professor who was arrested a year ago shortly after the coup that removed Suu Kyi from office.

In early February, Hun Sen had wrongly claimed that Turnell had been released and credited Hlaing for it. He quickly corrected himself and said he had received misinformation.

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