Cambodian leader’s meeting with Myanmar generals prompts protests
Jan 7, 2022: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has arrived in Myanmar ahead of a meeting with coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, amid protests in Myanmar and criticism of the trip by civil rights groups.
This is the first case of a national leader visiting the country since the military coup.
Hun Sen, who has ended political opposition in Cambodia, arrived in Naypidaw shortly before 4:00 GMT and was received by Army Foreign Minister Wunna Maung. He later walked down a red carpet, dressed in yellow-blue tunics and white trousers, with an honorary guard of soldiers on either side.
Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, the morning before the country’s newly elected parliament convened, and arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her government. Cambodia is the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which last year refused to allow Man Aung Hlaing to attend the group’s annual summit because of his failure to make progress on an April “consensus” to promote dialogue and end violence. to promote dialogue and end violence.
Emerlin Gill, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for research, said Hun Sen’s “rogue diplomacy” could do more harm than good. “If Hun Sen truly wants to help, he should cancel this trip and lead ASEAN to strong action to address the country’s dire human rights situation rather than indulge in empty gestures that will likely result in little more than a self-congratulatory photo op,” she said in a statement.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors the situation, about 1,500 people have been killed and about 11,500 arrested since the uprising. Last month, security forces were accused of killing and burning more than 30 civilians, including two members of the rescue group Save the Children.
Protests erupted in various parts of the country before Hun Sen’s arrival. In Depayin, about 300 kilometers north of the capital Naypyidaw, protesters burned a poster of the Cambodian prime minister and chanted “Hun Sen, don’t come to Myanmar. We don’t want dictator Hun Sen”, Reuters news agency reported.
Protests were also reported in Mandalay, Tennanthari and Monywa. A spokesman for the Daoist District Democracy Movement Strike Committee told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that Hun Sen’s visit would give legitimacy to a government that has failed to make progress in resolving the political crisis.
Hun Sen’s visit has also created divisions within ASEAN, which operates on the basis of consensus and is proud of its long-standing principle of non-interference. Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke to the Cambodian leader by phone on Wednesday and said he had stressed the need for progress on the April consensus. “If there is no significant progress on the implementation of the 5PCs (five-point consensus), Myanmar should be presented only at the ASEAN summit (at the non-political level),” he later tweeted.
Cambodia’s Hun Sen has said he will meet with Min Aung Hlaing but reports say he will not be allowed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi.
A planned visit by an ASEAN envoy last year failed because the military refused to give him access to the detained leader, who is currently on trial on various charges. The United Nations has not recognized the generals as rulers of Myanmar, and Kyaw Moe Tun, appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, remains in office.
Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement. “The other eight ASEAN countries should publicly demand an explanation from Hun Sen, and make it clear that the majority of ASEAN states favor an approach that requires negotiations with all parties to the Myanmar conflict, not just the generals who launched the coup and led Myanmar into this unmitigated disaster of continuous conflict, violence, and rights abuses.”
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