Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations wrapped up talks on Monday, endorsing Thailand's initiative to set up a humanitarian corridor to provide aid for civilians displaced by the country's intensifying civil war, the regional bloc said.

Lao Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, who chaired the two-day meeting that started Saturday in Luang Prabang, said at a press conference following the meeting, also attended by a senior Myanmar military government official, that Thailand proposed the plan for the humanitarian corridor to safely deliver assistance to those displaced within Myanmar or who fled to Thailand.

Myanmar, which will soon mark three years since the military coup that toppled the country's democratically elected government, sent its representative to a key ASEAN meeting for the first time since other members decided in October 2021 to allow only a nonpolitical representative from the country to attend.

Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith speaks at a press conference in Luang Prabang, Laos, on Jan. 29, 2024, the final day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers' meeting. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Saleumxay said the foreign ministers welcomed the presence of the senior official from Myanmar at the meeting.

"We are sure the more we engage with Myanmar, the more understanding, the deeper understanding (we will have)" between Myanmar and other ASEAN members, as well as between the country and the international community, he said.

According to Thai Vice Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Myanmar representative told the foreign ministers that the military government understands ASEAN's concerns over the situation in Myanmar, adding it endeavors to address the country's issues through cease-fire discussions with opposition forces.

The military regime has violently suppressed protests against the Feb. 1, 2021, coup that ousted the government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Since October last year, fighting between the military and rebel ethnic groups opposing the regime, as well as pro-democracy forces, has been intensifying.

A senior official of Myanmar's Foreign Ministry (front) attends an ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in northern Laos on Jan. 29, 2024. (Kyodo)

As this year's ASEAN chair, Laos has been more willing to engage with Myanmar's military regime. The junta initially sought to have a higher-ranking official, such as its foreign minister, join the meeting, but other ASEAN members rejected the plan.

Thai Foreign Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara told reporters that the assistance provision by Thailand would begin in late February after the junta and the Thai government designate the areas for the corridor connecting Myanmar and Thailand.

Parnpree added ASEAN's organization for humanitarian assistance would observe the humanitarian corridor mission.

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

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