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No 'Magic Wand' to End Myanmar Crisis: Envoy


A member of the Myanmar security forces stands by a checkpoint in Yangon on July 19, 2022, on the 75th Martyrs' Day that marks the anniversary of the assassination of independence leaders including general Aung San, father of the currently deposed and imp

A regional envoy tasked with kickstarting dialogue between Myanmar's junta and anti-coup fighters warned Thursday there was no "magic wand" to end the country's bloody crisis.

Myanmar has been embroiled in turmoil since the military seized power last year and ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, prompting fierce resistance and informal militias.

A local monitoring group says more than 2,000 people have been killed and almost 15,000 arrested as the junta seeks to crush dissent.

Prak Sokhonn, a special envoy of regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), warned there was no quick solution to the crisis.

"For those who want to see quick solutions, I am afraid there are none," he said in an online speech to a forum organised by Singapore-based think-tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

"Patience is the operative word here. There are no shortcuts. There is no magic wand, no special elixir."

Prak Sokhonn, who is also the foreign minister of ASEAN chair Cambodia, said it took his own country 20 years to achieve peace following the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979.

"Peace talk needs time, patience and concessions from all parties concerned. Due to the inherent divergence of interests, a peace talk is a lengthy bargaining process," he added.

He said his second visit to Myanmar from June 29-July 3 had shown "encouraging results" as it had paved the way for some humanitarian assistance, including Covid-19 vaccines.

He also said he was able "to open a new space for political dialogue" even with groups the junta designated as "terrorists", under certain conditions, including that they must say they have no intention of replacing the government.

And while he was not allowed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently in jail, the envoy said he was promised he could in the future.

On calls for him to engage with leaders of the shadow "National Unity Government", which is seeking to overturn the coup, Prak Sokhonn said "we don't need to shout from the rooftop on whom, on how, on when or where we engage with those actors deemed important to the political dialogue".

Negotiations are mostly done discreetly or in secret, he added.

In an interview with Singapore news outlet CNA on Wednesday, Prak Sokhonn said he hoped to make his third visit to Myanmar in September.

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