ASEAN SPECIAL ENVOY TO MYANMAR APPOINTED AFTER LONG DELAYS

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have appointed Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar.

Erywan has been tasked with ending violence in Myanmar and opening dialogue between the military rulers and their opponents in the crisis-torn country, according to a communique released after meetings on Monday and Wednesday by the bloc’s foreign ministers.

Yusof will also oversee a humanitarian aid package, although no details were announced. Instead, the communique called for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance to start work on “policy guidance”.

Myanmar’s military toppled a democratically elected government six months ago, plunging the country into turmoil as security forces suppressed protests, killing hundreds. The economy has collapsed and a humanitarian crisis worsened in the past month as coronavirus infections surged, overwhelming the health system.

The United Nations and many countries, including the United States and China, have urged ASEAN, whose 10 members include Myanmar, to spearhead diplomatic efforts to restore stability.

The appointment of an envoy was central to those efforts but was delayed for months amid deep divisions within ASEAN.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with ASEAN counterparts as part of a series of regional meetings he is taking part in this week, and called on the bloc to take joint action to urge the military to end the violence.

He also urged the ministers to push for Myanmar to release all those unjustly detained and restore the country’s path to democracy, a State Department statement said.