A special ASEAN envoy to Myanmar said in an interview that he has called for a four-month cease-fire by all sides in the country's conflict to enable the smooth delivery of the first batch of humanitarian assistance to the country expected as early as mid-September.
Speaking exclusively to Kyodo News online Saturday, Erywan Yusof, Brunei's second foreign minister, said he proposed the cease-fire until the end of this year in a videoconference with Myanmar's military-appointed foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, last Tuesday, and that the military had accepted it.
"This is not a political cease-fire. This is a cease-fire to ensure safety, (and) security of the humanitarian workers" as they go out and distribute aid to the people safely, he said.
"They didn't have any disagreement with what I said, with regards to the cease-fire," the envoy said, adding he has also passed his proposal indirectly to parties opposed to the military's rule following a February coup that ousted the country's democratically elected government.
"I hope the message is passed on to them."
The Tatmadaw, as Myanmar's military is also known, has been using violence against pro-democracy forces and armed ethnic minorities, some of whom are also resorting to violence against it.
Aid from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is being prepared as the member country struggles with the triple crisis of political turmoil, a faltering economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
With the Indonesia-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance tasked with deploying humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, Erywan said, "We are engaging and sending signals to all the concerned parties in Myanmar to stop any violent acts and exercise utmost restraint."
The first batch of aid consists of medical equipment Myanmar urgently needs to help people who have become severely ill from COVID-19, such as oxygen compressors and protective gear, and it goes to "all the people of Myanmar," he said.
Aid bound for border areas controlled by armed ethnic minority groups may be routed by land via neighboring Thailand, he said.
The next step is to procure vaccines for the country, he added.
Erywan was appointed the special envoy in early August, months after ASEAN leaders agreed to a "five-point consensus" to help defuse the coup-sparked crisis in Myanmar.
The consensus calls for an immediate cessation of violence, the start of dialogue for a peaceful solution, the facilitation of the dialogue by a special envoy, humanitarian aid and the envoy's visit to Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned.
Erywan said that while his negotiations with the Myanmar military to fulfill his mandate are continuing, he hopes to visit the country this month and make it a "substantive visit" that would allow him full access to all parties concerned.
The envoy said he wants to have "a clear picture of what I'm allowed to do and what I'm not allowed to do...so that I can decide whether the visit would go ahead or not."
On his chance of meeting detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Erywan said he has "in my discussion with the authorities mentioned that the international community and some of the ASEAN member states have pressed on the need" for him to meet her.
But the envoy said he has not received a green light to meet her. "Not yet. They haven't yet said no but they said let's discuss it further."