6 June 2024

ASEAN senior officials have endorsed Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn as the new ASEAN special envoy, according to a highly placed source.

The source said that at the senior official meeting, held via teleconference on January 5th, the ASEAN officials congratulated DPM and FM Prak on his new assignment, succeeding Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Dato Erywan Yusof.

Prak is travelling with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on a two-day visit to Naypyidaw which will begin tomorrow (Friday). The Cambodian delegation is there in response to the military junta’s invitation. Last month, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Wanna Maung Lwin held talks with senior Cambodian officials in Phnom Penh.

At the meeting, the senior officials agreed that the top priority is the implementation of the five-point consensus, which was agreed on April 24th, 2021, and the framework will be discussed further at the foreign ministerial retreat on January 19th in Siem Reap. They are likely to approve Prak as the special envoy.

The issue of Myanmar’s credentials will also be discussed at the retreat. For the time being, ASEAN and the international community continue to engage Myanmar’s military junta without any official recognition. ASEAN decided to invite a non-political official representative from Myanmar to all ASEAN-related meetings since October 15th, 2021.

While there is no problem related to representatives of Myanmar, ASEAN has still to decide on the credentials issue. The military junta, official known as the State Administration Council (SAC), has already declared the National Unity Government (NUG) a terrorist group. Naypyidaw objects to any efforts to bring the NUG representatives to ASEAN meetings.

By the same token, the NUG has also branded the SAC as a terrorist group. Therefore, according to the source, ASEAN has to form a consensus as to which group should hold the country’s credentials.

The outgoing special envoy, Erywan, briefed his successor on the challenges ahead. He emphasised that it is important for the special envoy to have full access to all concerned parties in the conflict without reprisals.

Hun Sen is visiting Naypyidaw without any pre-conditions. Prior to his visit, he stressed that Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN family and, therefore, has to be included in the ASEAN meetings.

Under Cambodia’s chair, the ASEAN theme is “ASEAN A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together”. According to Prak, the idea behind the theme is to highlight the importance of the ASEAN spirit as a united family of 10, with a strong sense of togetherness.

Cambodia will hold the 40th and 41st summits back to back in early November. The dates have yet to be confirmed.