Cambodia’s Hun Sen Proceeds Bilateral Meeting With Burmese Military Despite Protests From Human Rights Groups

By Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly
Aldgra Fredly is a freelance writer based in Malaysia, covering Asia Pacific news for The Epoch Times.
January 8, 2022Updated: January 8, 2022

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has arrived in Burma on Friday ahead of a bilateral meeting with the military junta that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup last year, despite protests from human rights groups calling for his visit to be canceled.

Hun Sen came to Burma at the invitation of military leader General Min Aung Hlaing for talks “on bilateral and multilateral cooperation and recent developments in ASEAN,” Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Jan. 5.

The two-day visit, which begins on Jan. 7, makes Hun Sen the first foreign leader to visit Burma—also known as Myanmar—since the military regime seized power last year.

The military regime, however, wouldn’t allow Hun Sen to meet with detained Aung San Suu Kyi or other democratically elected leaders due to their legal charges, Radio Free Asia reported, citing a military junta spokesman.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported that nearly 1,500 people have been killed in Burma and 11,369 people were detained as of Jan. 6, adding that the actual number of fatalities could be “much higher” than this.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also stated last month that it had received “multiple reports” of villages being torched and unarmed protestors being rammed by military vehicles in Burma.

Some human rights groups have urged Hun Sen to cancel his trip to Burma, citing Cambodia’s role as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has been leading diplomatic efforts on Burma.

ASEAN has also adopted a five-point consensus (pdf) on Burma, including ending violence in Burma, facilitating constructive dialogue with all parties concerned, sending humanitarian aid to Burma, and a visit by the ASEAN delegation to Burma to assess the situation.

Citing the five-point consensus on Burma, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said on Twitter that Hun Sen’s move to meet with the military regime “undermines ASEAN credibility” and threatens efforts to restore the country’s democracy.

Amnesty International’s regional director for research Emerlynne Gil has also called on Hun Sen to cancel the visit and to prioritize “human rights action over empty gestures.”

Gil noted that Hun Sen’s “rogue diplomacy” might send “mixed messages” to military leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has been blocked from attending ASEAN meetings.

“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,” Gil said in a statement.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Jan. 5 that he had told Hun Sen in a phone conversation that Burma should only be represented by a “non-political level” at ASEAN meetings if the military regime made no progress on the ASEAN’s five-point consensus.

“We discussed development in Myanmar. I reiterated clearly Indonesia’s position on the importance of implementation of the five-point consensus to bring democracy back in Myanmar through inclusive dialogue,” Joko said on Twitter.

Related Topics