Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at Asean if progress made

Cambodia PM says Myanmar junta welcome at Asean if progress made

FILE PHOTO: Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen (right) shaking hands with Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing during a dinner in Naypyidaw, Jan 7, 2022. (National Television of Cambodia (TVK) / AFP)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday said he had invited Myanmar’s junta chief to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), on the condition that progress is made on a peace plan he agreed to last year.

Hun Sen, the current Asean chair, said he would talk to military chief Min Aung Hlaing by video call on Wednesday, noting that since their face-to-face talks earlier this month, ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi had been sentenced and military aircraft had been deployed in operations.

Min Aung Hlaing led a coup in Myanmar last year and Asean made a surprise move in barring the junta from important meetings, over its failure to implement an agreed five-point Asean “consensus” on ceasing hostilities and allowing dialogue.

“He (Hun Sen) said that he had invited HE (His Excellency) Min Aung Hlaing to attend the Asean summit if there was progress in the implementation of the five points agreed unanimously,” said a statement on Hun Sen’s Facebook page, summarising his call on Tuesday with Malaysia’s prime minister.

“But if not, he must send a non-political representative to Asean meetings.”

As new chair of Asean, Cambodia has indicated it wants to engage not isolate the junta, but Hun Sen has been pressed by several Asean leaders, including those of Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, not to give way on the agreement, which is backed by the United Nations and United States.

The overthrow of Suu Kyi’s elected government in Myanmar has been a setback for Asean and its efforts to present itself as a credible and integrated bloc.

Hun Sen’s Myanmar visit caused concern within the group that it could suggest Asean recognition of the generals, who have overseen a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy forces.

Fissures have been exposed over the Myanmar issue and Hun Sen last week took a swipe at Malaysia’s foreign minister, calling him arrogant for voicing concern about him meeting the junta chief.

The Asean consensus includes halting offensives and granting full access to a special Asean envoy to all parties in the conflict.

Malaysian leader Ismail Sabri told Hun Sen there was an urgent need to de-escalate the Myanmar situation and release Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, according to a foreign ministry statement.