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08/09/2021 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) announced the appointment of Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, to the position of Special Envoy to Myanmar during last week’s ASEAN Foreign Minister’s Meeting. Erywan is expected to commence his new duties with a trip to Myanmar this week. The position was agreed upon in April but just recently filled after months of disagreement over the right candidate and the need to obtain consent from Myanmar’s military junta.

Erywan is tasked with overseeing the delivery of humanitarian relief to Myanmar, an issue that has to this point proven difficult given the junta’s hostility to outside influence and even its own people. Much of the humanitarian devastation in Myanmar is the direct result of military action, both past and present. Since the coup, the military has killed over 900 civilians and jailed almost 7,000 more.

The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against Christian and Muslim religious minorities. ICC recently published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended last week’s ASEAN meetings. His participation indicates sustained U.S. interested in Myanmar. The U.S. was quick to condemn the junta when it deposed the civilian government on February 1, 2021. It even imposed several sanctions on the regime, some unilaterally and some in coordination with other governments.

The junta has only increased in power since the coup, apparently unaffected by the condemnation of the international community. In early August General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s military, declared himself Prime Minister and delayed elections by another eighteen months to August 2023 from his original promise of February 2022. “We have to make preparations,” he said in a televised address. “We must create conditions to hold a free and fair multiparty general election.”

The international community must consider how it can create real change in Myanmar and what it can do to prevent countries like Russia, China, and Japan from softening the impact of the international community’s attempts to pressure the Tatmadaw. Myanmar’s pro-democracy protestors and religious minorities alike need the concerted support of the international community.

For interviews, please contact Addison Parker: [email protected].