Asean envoy set for 3-day Myanmar visit later in March

Mr Prak Sokhonn, the foreign minister of Cambodia, is due to visit Myanmar from March 20-23. PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - A South-east Asian special envoy is due to visit Myanmar from March 20-23, a Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman said, in an effort to initiate a peace process in a country gripped by conflict triggered by a coup a year ago.

Mr Prak Sokhonn, the foreign minister of Cambodia, the current chair of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), last month urged Myanmar's ruling generals to allow him to meet all stakeholders there, including its outlawed opponents.

Following the military's deadly crackdown on months of strikes and protests against its coup, heavy fighting has raged in several regions of Myanmar between troops and militias allied with the ousted government, some backed by ethnic minority insurgents.

Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said by text message that Mr Prak Sokhonn's trip was still being arranged but confirmed reports that a tentative schedule had been set for March 20-23.

Mr Chum Sounry declined to provide details of who the envoy might meet, but efforts by a previous Asean envoy to meet Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is detained and on trial, proved fruitless.

Myanmar's military spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The junta agreed last year to a five-point Asean plan to end unrest in Myanmar, which included ceasing hostilities, allowing humanitarian aid access and supporting an inclusive peace process.

Some Asean members have been frustrated over the army's failure to comply and the bloc has prevented the generals from attending regional meetings until it demonstrates progress.

More than 300,000 people have been displaced by post-coup conflict in Myanmar, according to the United Nations, with thousands of civilians arrested, many beaten, tortured and killed, say human rights groups.

The military government on Monday accused Western media of biased reporting of events in Myanmar and said it was seeking to protect its people from "terrorists", and had freed more than 48,000 detained protesters.

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