Voices of concern at ASEAN over Hun Sen’s Myanmar visit | ASEAN News

The Malaysian foreign minister said that as the current president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Hun Sen should have consulted with other member states.

Malaysia’s foreign minister said some Southeast Asian countries had reservations about the Cambodian leader’s visit last week to Myanmar, with fears the visit could be seen as regional recognition of military rule amid continued opposition to the coup.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, the new president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), met with military ruler Min Aung Hlaing last week in the first visit by a head of government to Myanmar since last February’s coup.

Saifuddin Abdullah, speaking to reporters late Thursday, said there were differing opinions within ASEAN over Hun Sen’s visit, with some of its 10 members concerned that the trip could be seen as legitimizing the coup plotters.

“There are people who think that he should not have visited because his visit was interpreted or interpreted as recognition of the Myanmar army,” he said.

“Malaysia sees it as his right to visit Myanmar as the head of the government of Cambodia. However, we also feel that since he has already taken over the presidency of ASEAN, it is possible that he could have consulted other ASEAN leaders and asked for our views on what he should do if he were to go to Myanmar.”

When asked if he thought Hun Sen’s visit achieved anything, Saifuddin said: “No.”

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the February 1 coup, with the military using force to quell protests and confront armed resistance on multiple fronts from opponents it calls “terrorists”.

Thousands have been arrested and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained as the generals seized power, have been convicted of crimes including incitement and breaking coronavirus rules.

There were also reports of the army launching air attacks in various parts of the country, forcing thousands of civilians to flee. On Thursday, further aerial bombardment was reported in Chin and Karen states.

Despite the threat of violence, anti-coup protesters defied the military by organizing rapid protests in several cities and towns, including the commercial capital Yangon. Social media posts also showed pictures of protests in Shwebo town and Yinmapen district, both in Sagaing District, on Thursday.

Min Aung Hlaing isolated

Late last year, ASEAN took the unprecedented step of sidelining Min Aung Hlaing from a summit of its leaders over his failure to implement the five-point peace plan to end hostilities and start a comprehensive dialogue agreed with ASEAN in April.

Saifuddin said it was unclear whether Cambodia as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would continue to exclude Myanmar’s military government from ASEAN meetings until it showed progress, a position favored by former president Brunei, which Malaysia supported.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon said on Saturday that his country as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will take “different approaches” to the Myanmar crisis.

According to Myanmar state media, Min Aung thanked Hlaing Hun Sen for “standing by Myanmar”.

Meanwhile, the UN special envoy urged ASEAN on Thursday to get all parties involved in the crisis.

Noelen Heyzer, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, held virtual talks with Hun Sen and sought a cooperative humanitarian effort while seeking progress on the faltering five-point peace plan.

“The Special Envoy called for confidence-building measures that include all stakeholders, as well as armed ethnic organizations,” the statement read.

An envoy from the former president, Brunei, made meeting all stakeholders a prerequisite for the visit, which was rejected by the government. But Cambodia’s next envoy to Myanmar, Prak Sokhon, said this approach was not fruitful.

She urged Brak Sachon to work with her and the international community on “a coordinated strategy towards creating an environment conducive to inclusive dialogue.”

“I stressed the necessary solutions to benefit from direct interaction and to listen carefully to all those affected,” she said.

Hun Sen did not meet Aung San Suu Kyi while in Myanmar and did not refer to her in the joint statement he issued with Min Aung Hlaing afterwards.

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