Asean agrees on Brunei’s second foreign minister as envoy to Myanmar

Asean agrees on Brunei’s second foreign minister as envoy to Myanmar

Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof (Kyodo photo)

Asean foreign ministers agreed Wednesday on Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof as the group’s special envoy to Myanmar over the political turmoil in the member country, regional diplomatic sources said.

Asean selects Brunei diplomat Erywan as special envoy to Myanmar

Asean foreign ministers agreed Wednesday to appoint Brunei diplomat Erywan Yusof as the group’s special envoy to member country Myanmar, where the military seized power six months ago.

Myanmar’s junta’s approved Erywan’s appointment during a 40-minute special online meeting, which came two days after the ministers held talks without reaching a formal conclusion.

Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed in April to send a special envoy to Myanmar in the wake of the Feb. 1 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government, but months passed without one chosen.

The selection of Erywan, who is Brunei’s second foreign minister, as the Asean special envoy is in fulfilment of a “five-point consensus” agreed upon at an extraordinary Asean summit held in Indonesia in April.

A joint communique released Wednesday said the special envoy is tasked with “building trust and confidence with full access to all parties concerned and providing a clear timeline on the implementation of the five-point consensus.”

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s Director General for Asean Cooperation Sidharto Suryodipuro told a press conference that the special envoy must report the results of his Myanmar visit at the next Asean foreign ministerial meeting in September.

The diplomat stressed that the joint communique “cannot be seen as a (Asean) recognition of the military junta.”

He pointed out that, unlike previous years’ communiques, the latest one does not start with the words “We, the Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations…”

The wording avoidance reflects the controversial participation in this week’s series of Asean ministerial meetings of Myanmar’s junta-appointed foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

Asean sources earlier said Indonesia opposed the candidacy of former Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Virasakdi Futrakul, who was apparently favored by Myanmar’s junta.

Other nominees put forward included Hassan Wirajuda, a former Indonesian foreign minister, and Razali Ismail, a Malaysian who was a UN special envoy for Myanmar in the 2000s.

At Monday’s meeting, Indonesia and Singapore had pushed for the selection of Erywan, whose country currently holds the rotating Asean chair.

Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry, described Erywan as “an excellent choice” and a “very experienced Asean hand.”

“But I hope Asean’s friends and partners will not burden him with unrealistic expectations and by second-guessing his every move,” he said.

Asean groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.