ASEAN backlash over Cambodian PM’s visit to Myanmar

Cambodia Prime Minster Hun Sen. | Photo courtesy of the Human Rights Watch.

Following Cambodian PM Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw earlier this month, Cambodia’s year-long ASEAN chairmanship began with the postponement of a high-level conference amid a heated discussion on “who should represent Myanmar” after the post-coup country fell into a tottering loophole.

The two-day summit, in which Cambodia had shown confidence in hosting an in-person ASEAN meeting for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak began two years ago and was scheduled to start tomorrow in Siem Reap, has been postponed as several ministers are unable to attend.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he would be absent from the meeting due to a session of parliament the next day, whilst the director-general for Asian, Pacific, and African affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Abdul Kadir Jailani, said Indonesia could understand the deferral, given the increased number of Covid-19 cases in the region as the Omicron variant spreads.

Kadir also told reporters recently that divergent opinions within ASEAN nations need to be consolidated and work together on the issue of invitations to Myanmar representatives, as Cambodia was expected to execute the outcomes of previous ASEAN meetings consistently and make additional progress this year. He added that Indonesia was also focusing on participation outside of the organisation.

During last year’s meeting virtually hosted by Brunei Darussalam, all members agreed in the absence of a Myanmar representative that there should be nonpolitical personnel at the preceding ASEAN Summit.

Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar has been disputed by other bloc members, who claim that the five-point agreement reached during an emergency leaders’ summit in Jakarta called for an end to all hostilities, not merely a truce between armed factions.

Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong told Hun Sen during a video call on Friday that ASEAN would have to maintain its policy of inviting only nonpolitical representatives of the country because there had been no significant progress on the Myanmar crisis.

According to Lee, the Myanmar military continued attacks on political opponents mere days after Hun Sen’s visit, while the country’s former democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was given further prison sentences.

SOURCE: The Jarkata Post

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