11 July 2024

Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who is currently ASEAN chairman, will lead an ASEAN delegation to visit Myanmar on Thursday in an effort by the regional grouping to help find a way out of the ongoing crisis in the country, a highly-placed source has told Thai PBS World.

The source said the ASEAN team is scheduled to meet with leaders of the State Administrative Council which is running the country after the military toppled the democratically-elected government led by the National League of Democracy (NLD) in a coup in February.

Joining the sultan on the three-day visit will be Brunei’s Foreign Minister II Erywan Yusof and ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi.

While they are scheduled to meet Myanmar’s military leaders, it’s still unclear whether they will also be seeing any of the political groups opposing the military take-over.   Anti-military politicians have set up a national unity government and have demanded recognition by the regional grouping which is trying to mediate a peaceful solution to the crisis which so far has claimed more than 800 lives.

The source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that the trip this week took sometimes to finalize  due to safety concerns. Protests against the military have continued in many places in Myanmar in the past several weeks while Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, has engaged in fierce fighting with various armed ethnic groups.

The source said that the Myanmar trip this week will allow ASEAN to assess the situation on the ground.

The source said after the Myanmar visit the delegation will proceed to Chongqing, China, to join its ASEAN colleagues for a special ASEAN-China forum to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their relations.

A summit of ASEAN leaders in late April came up with a five-point consensus which essentially called for an immediate end to the ongoing violence in Myanmar and for ASEAN to play a mediating role in the crisis. It also proposed a visit to Myanmar by special ASEAN envoys.

However, only days after Myanmar military junta leader Gen Min Aung Hlaing returned from the Jakarta summit, the military spokesman said Myanmar would welcome a visit by ASEAN representatives only after the country achieved a certain level of security and stability.

As the rotating chairman of ASEAN, Brunei has asked ASEAN member countries to nominate candidates to serve as the ASEAN special envoys for the task.  Thailand is reported to have proposed Virasakdi Futrakul, a former deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Myanmar for the role.

The source said the ASEAN chair is expected to announce the composition of the so-called “ASEAN envoys” next week following the Myanmar visit. The source said the proposed envoys will comprise a few prominent diplomats from the ASEAN members.

At the Jakarta meeting, Thailand also proposed the setting up of “Friends of the Chair” to assist the Sultan in the efforts to help solve the crisis in Myanmar.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk