Laos Appoints Alounkeo Kittikhoun as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar

Laos Appoints Alounkeo Kittikhoun as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar
[FILE] Alounkeo Kittikhoun speaks on stage in ASEAN India Business and Investment Meet & Expo in 2018 (photo: ASEAN India CII)

Alounkeo Kittikhoun, a former minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and a veteran Lao diplomat, has been appointed as the new Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy to Myanmar. 

The announcement came from Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith ahead of the upcoming ministerial retreat, scheduled for 28-29 January in Luang Prabang, and highlights Laos’ swift action in upholding the regional peace agreement, the Five-Point Consensus.

The Five-Point Consensus, established in response to the Myanmar military coup in April 2021, calls for an immediate cessation of violence and the initiation of inclusive political dialogue. Despite the urgency, doubts persist about the region’s ability to effectively address the complex issue in Myanmar.

Kittikhoun officially assumed his role on January 1, marking a swift appointment highlighting the incoming Lao commitment to uphold the region’s peace agreement, as reported by Thai PBS

Unlike the previous ASEAN chair, Laos has opted for a special envoy rather than establishing a dedicated office, emphasizing a more direct and focused approach. In early 2023, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi took leadership of a new office established by Indonesia to guide ASEAN’s strategy on the Myanmar crisis, as Indonesia held the rotating chair of ASEAN last year.

During her office, she attempted to engage with “all stakeholders” in Myanmar and stressed the importance of facilitating a national dialogue to address the crisis, yet made little impact on stopping the violence.

A senior Thai diplomat, speaking anonymously for security reasons, acknowledged the seriousness of Kittikhoun’s appointment in implementing the consensus. With extensive experience in foreign affairs and ASEAN matters, the Lao diplomat’s role comes at a critical juncture as the Myanmar crisis continues to escalate.

Laos aims to build on the achievements of past chairs, such as Brunei, Cambodia, and Indonesia, and is dedicated to assisting Myanmar in finding a Myanmar-led, durable, inclusive, and peaceful solution. The upcoming ministerial retreat in late January will feature the presentation of key deliverables under the ASEAN theme of “Connectivity and Resilience.”

Despite these efforts, skepticism remains about Laos’ ability to effectively address the multifaceted issues in Myanmar. Retired US diplomat Scot Marciel expressed doubt, stating in a comment on X (formerly known as Twitter), “Alounkeo is a quality, experienced diplomat, but I see no real prospect for ASEAN diplomacy to shape what happens next in Myanmar.”

“The bloc is divided and has been pursuing ‘solutions’ that don’t reflect the reality of the Myanmar situation,” Marciel further commented.

For nearly four years, the Myanmar crisis has troubled ASEAN leaders without a clear solution. The formation of a troika involving current, past, and future chairs is a recent development aimed at addressing the crisis. However, expert voices continue to cast doubt on the region’s ability to effectively tackle the pressing issue.