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Lack of trust, political will shackles Myanmar peace process, says ASEAN envoy

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Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn attends a press conference after the conclusion of the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 6, 2022. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

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PHNOM PENH, Aug 6 (Reuters) – A lack of trust and political will is stifling the Myanmar peace process and Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN will continue to shun its ruling generals unless they engage opponents and make concrete progress, it said. on Saturday a special regional envoy. .

Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and chairman of this week’s regional foreign ministers’ meetings, said he would not give up on Myanmar, even though he had seen no willingness on either side to give up their fight.

Myanmar has been locked in a spiral of violence since the military seized power last year and ended a decade of tentative democracy, sparking a backlash of protests, strikes and armed resistance that the generals have met with deadly force.

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Prak Sokhonn said the junta’s recent execution of four activists linked to a militia movement was a major blow to any hope of peace, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed that without future progress, its position on Myanmar would have to reconsider.

“I haven’t seen any sign of will on all sides to stop fighting. The only way I see now is to keep fighting. Why? Because of a lack of trust,” he said.

“Without this trust, the war will continue and the political process will never stop, because no one will come if they fear for their lives.”

The junta has become an international outcast for cracking down on its opponents. ASEAN has banned the military from representing Myanmar at international meetings until it begins implementing a peace plan.

A United Nations-backed peace plan, which Myanmar’s coup leader agreed to with ASEAN in 2021, has yet to move forward and remains the only diplomatic process in play.

In a statement late Friday, Myanmar’s junta said ASEAN members should not interfere in its affairs nor engage with “terrorists” who oppose its rule.

He said the army has always been clear that its commitment to the peace process will be determined by developments on the ground.

“ASEAN must respect the right of every member state and refrain from interference … subversion and coercion,” he said, adding that the junta was making “significant progress” in peace efforts.

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Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan; Additional writing and reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Kim Coghill

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