Anger while Hun Sen of Cambodia meets with Myanmar’s military leader
Hun Sen is the first head of government to visit Myanmar since taking military power last February. The Cambodian authoritarian leader has held power for 36 years and maintains a tight strap on political activity at home.
In his role as current president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he met with senior general Min Aung Hlaing, who overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, and submerged Myanmar in a violent conflict and economic disaster.
At his meeting, Min Aung Hlaing told Hun Sen that Myanmar had extended a ceasefire with all ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in the country that was originally due to expire in late February to the end of the year, according to a joint statement. published Friday afternoon by the two leaders.
Min Aung Hlaing said he “welcomed the participation of the ASEAN presidency special envoy to Myanmar to join the ceasefire talks with and between the EAOs,” the statement added. . “This important step is reflected in the ASEAN five-point consensus.”
Last April, ASEAN leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, agreed on a five-point roadmap for a peaceful solution to the Myanmar crisis, including an end to violence and a political dialogue between all stakeholders.
Myanmar’s leader on Friday “promised support (to the ASEAN special envoy) … to fulfill his mandate to implement the five-point consensus in accordance with the ASEAN letter,” he said. press release.
Hun Sen was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn, the current ASEAN special envoy and other Cambodian leaders.
Photos published by an army-related publication, the Popular News Journal, showed Min Aung Hlaing and Hun Sen standing side by side with face masks, slapping their forearms and sitting in ornate gold chairs in front of a elaborate golden screen.
Protests and rallies were held in parts of Myanmar as people expressed outrage over Hun Sen’s visit.
Hundreds of protesters burned portraits of the Cambodian prime minister and chanted, “Senator Hun’s inhuman torch. People associated with Min Aung Hlaing should die horrible death,” protest videos posted online showed.
The leader of Myanmar was banned from attending ASEAN meetings in October after the group’s special envoy was unable to meet with Suu Kyi and other political detainees, which was one of the stipulations of the agreement.
Hun Sen said on Wednesday before leaving Cambodia that he had not set any preconditions for his visit.
“What I would like to contribute to the talks is nothing more than the five points, consensus points that were agreed by all ASEAN member states,” he said.
Myanmar army says Hun Sen will not be able to meet with Suu Kyi, who was convicted in December of inciting and violating coronavirus restrictions and sentenced to four years in prison, a sentence that Min Aung Hlaing reduced to half.
A legal official familiar with Suu Kyi’s legal proceedings said she appeared in a special court in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar, on Friday for hearings on three corruption cases against her that included allegations that she diverted charitable donations to build a residence and abuse of authority.
The inauguration of the army prevented Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party from starting a second term in office. He won a landslide victory in the November 2020 national elections, and independent election observers found no major irregularities.
The Min Aung Hlaing movement undoed 10 years of progress toward democracy as the army loosened power after decades of repressive military rule.
Myanmar’s army has a history of bloodshed, including a brutal campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Its seizure of power provoked nonviolent demonstrations across the country, which security forces have suppressed with lethal force.
The military has recently pledged to violently crack down on dissent, disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. It has also launched airstrikes and ground offensives against rebel armed ethnic groups.
Security forces have killed about 1,443 civilians, according to a detailed count by the Political Prisoners Assistance Association. As repression has become more severe, armed resistance has grown within the country.
Hun Sen’s visit drew international criticism.
His decision to meet with Min Aung Hlaing was “an affront to the people of Myanmar who strongly oppose the visit,” said Phil Robertson, Asia’s deputy director of Human Rights Watch.
“The visit is a slap in the face to other ASEAN member states that had no say on the matter,” even after they limited Min Aung Hlaing’s involvement in the 10-nation regional group, he said.
After holding power in exile or imprisoning the Cambodian opposition, Hun Sen may be waiting for his visit to tarnish his own tarnished international image.
The National Unity Government, a clandestine opposition group in Myanmar and a parallel administration, urged Hun Sen to stay away.
“I know Min Aung Hlaing, giving me blood-stained hands. It won’t be acceptable,” said Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the group that uses a name.
Associated Press reporters Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Kiko Rosario in Manila, the Philippines and Jerry Harmer in Bangkok contributed to this report.