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Junta leader accepts Thai candidate as Asean envoy

Myanmar’s top military commander Gen Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that his government would accept the dispatch of a special envoy agreed in April by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to mediate among the parties and find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in the country.

He also said the junta has selected former deputy foreign minister Virasakdi Futrakul, one of three nominees to be the envoy.

The commander-in-chief promised to hold a “free and fair multiparty general election” by August 2023 at the latest, after a two-year state of emergency expires.

He made the remarks in a televised speech six months after the Feb 1 military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

“I would like to say that Myanmar is ready to work on Asean cooperation within the Asean framework including the dialogue with the Asean special envoy in Myanmar,” Gen Min Aung Hlaing said.

Of the three original nominees for the Asean special envoy, he said, his government had agreed to select Mr Virasakdi, a veteran diplomat.

“But for various reasons, the new proposals were released and we could not keep moving forwards,” he said.

Asean sources have said other nominees put forward include Hassan Wirajuda, a former Indonesian foreign minister, and Razali Ismail, a Malaysian who was a UN special envoy for Myanmar in the 2000s tasked with facilitating national reconciliation and democratisation in the country.

The envoy’s selection is expected to be finalised when Asean foreign ministers gather virtually between Monday and Friday for an annual series of meetings.

It had initially been believed that the special envoy would be dispatched in mid-May, but the junta had shown little willingness to accept such a delegation.

The dispatch of the special envoy was one of the five items agreed upon at an extraordinary Asean summit held in Indonesia in late April to discuss the situation in the country.

The five items also included the need for an immediate suspension of violence and humanitarian assistance from Asean

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