ASEAN envoy seeking favourable conditions for Myanmar peace process

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PHNOM PENH, March 18 (Reuters) - A Southeast Asian special envoy will visit Myanmar next week, his office said on Friday, to lay the groundwork for a peace process that its ruling junta has been accused of delaying while it tries to consolidate power and crush its opposition.

Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia's foreign minister and envoy for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), wants to hold Myanmar's military boss Min Aung Hlaing to his commitment to end hostilities in the wake of a coup he led last year.

ASEAN has barred Myanmar's generals from regional summits since late last year and several member states insist they must remain sidelined until progress is made, including granting the envoy access to all parties.

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"It will be the special envoy's first visit to Myanmar aimed at creating a favourable condition leading to the end of violence as well as the utmost restraint by all parties," Cambodia foreign ministry spokesperson Chum Sounry said, when asked by Reuters for confirmation.

He said it was not the right time to say who Prak Sokhonn would meet on the March 21-23 trip, which aims to encourage political dialogue and consultation.

"There is no doubt that it will be a long way with various challenges to reach this goal, but the long journey has to start by the first step," he added.

It comes less than a week after the release of a United Nations report that said Myanmar's military was responsible for systematic abuses, many of which were war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Those included mass killings, torture, sexual violence and the deliberate targeting of civilians in air strikes, it said. read more

Myanmar's junta has yet to respond but has previously scolded the U.N. for interference. The military's spokesperson did not answer calls seeking comment on the envoy's visit.

The coup and ensuing crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and ousted politicians has prompted outrage and sanctions by Western countries, which have backed ASEAN's diplomatic initiative.

The peace plan has gone nowhere since it was signed last April, however, and Myanmar's junta seldom acknowledges the agreement.

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Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Ed Davies

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