Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will visit Myanmar on Friday, despite criticism that his visit runs the risk of legitimizing the country’s coup leaders.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is preparing for a visit to Myanmar plagued by a crisis, even though his top diplomat warned that the Southeast Asian country “has all the ingredients for civil war”.

Hun Sen, whose country holds the rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, will visit Myanmar on Friday and Saturday.

ASEAN was the forerunner diplomatic efforts to tackle the unrest in Myanmar since the country’s army overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power in a coup last year. But the bloc has not succeeded in making significant progress for dialogue between the opposing sides, even as violence increases in the country.

At least 1,435 people were killed in a security force suppression of anti-coup protests, while fighting broke out in Myanmar’s border areas between the military and ethnic armed groups and civilian militias opposed to the abuses of power.

Prak Sokhonn, Cambodia’s foreign minister, who has also been appointed as ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar, on Monday described the country’s prospects as dire.

“The political and security crisis in Myanmar is deepening, leading to (an) economic, health and humanitarian crisis,” he said.

“We feel that all the ingredients for civil war are now on the table.

“There are now two governments, there are several armed forces, people undergoing what they call the civil disobedience movement and (there is) guerrilla warfare across the country.”

Prak Sokhonn spoke during a lecture organized by the Singapore-based think tank, the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, and rejected criticism from legal groups that Hun Sen’s visit would legitimize the army’s rule.

He said the kingdom’s “immediate attention is being paid to improving the situation in Myanmar”.

ASEAN peace plan

Efforts will remain focused on a peace roadmap and the “five-point consensus” that ASEAN leaders agreed on last year, he said.

The visit aims to “pave the way for progress” by “creating a conducive environment for inclusive dialogue and political trust between all parties involved”.

He said Myanmar’s crisis had dire implications for “regional stability… ASEAN’s image, credibility, unity,” and said Cambodia was making efforts to allow Myanmar’s military chief to attend the group’s meetings again.

That of Cambodia approach to Myanmar, condemned by analysts and civil society, differs significantly from the one taken by ASEAN last year when it took the unprecedented step under the Brunei presidency of bar Myanmar’s coup leader, Ming Aung Hlaing from his meetings.

The rare reprimand came after the military refused to allow ASEAN’s special envoy – who was tasked with initiating dialogue between the warring parties in Myanmar – to meet with elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The 76-year-old, who was removed from office and detained by the generals when they took power, has since been sentenced to two years in prison on charges of inciting discord and violating COVID-19 rules in a trial who condemned her supporters as politically motivated.

She also faces additional charges, including multiple charges of corruption, violations of a state secret law and a telecommunications law that together result in a maximum sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s army said on Tuesday that Hun Sen would also not be allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit.

“Only those who represent political parties will be able to meet and discuss, but there are restrictions for those who still face legal charges,” Zaw Min Tun told Radio Free Asia.

He did not respond to questions about whether Hun Sen would meet with other members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

Meanwhile, about 200 civil society groups in Myanmar and Cambodia have condemned Hun Sen’s visit and a statement On Tuesday, it called on ASEAN and the United Nations to ensure that “Hun Sen does not act alone in 2022 – which gives legitimacy to the Myanmar military junta and further encourages them to do more harm to the people”.

They added: “This will be an insult to the people of Myanmar and Cambodia and further jeopardize the ASEAN’s already declining credibility during the Cambodian tenure as chair of ASEAN in 2022.”

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