Cambodia to Invite Myanmar Junta Defense Minister to Upcoming ASEAN Meeting

By The Irrawaddy 19 May 2022

Cambodia is planning to invite the Myanmar junta’s defense minister to next month’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, according to Cambodian media.

Regime representatives were present at a recent three-day meeting of senior ASEAN defense officials from all ten member states. The junta sent Zaw Zaw Soe, the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Defense’s Department of International Affairs. He expressed his thanks to Cambodia’s Ministry of Defense for convening the important meetings.

General Nem Sowath, Director-General of Cambodia’s Ministry of Defense’s General Department of Policy and Foreign Affairs, who chaired the meeting, said that the meeting was a preparatory event ahead of next month’s ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting.

However, the presence of a junta-appointed defense official has caused concern.

Kin Phea, director general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, described the regime official as a “non-political representative”.

“I think the Myanmar defense official has the right to attend meetings in Cambodia because he is not a politician, or at the political level, but at the technical level. The participation of the Myanmar delegation is important to contributing to moving the ASEAN mechanism forward,” said Kin Phea.

In March, Cambodia, the current chair of ASEAN, welcomed some of the generals overseeing the Myanmar military’s atrocities against its own people, who reject military rule.

Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo, Myanmar’s Chief of Military Security Affairs, attended the 19th ASEAN Military Intelligence Meeting in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, according to junta-run media. The meeting discussed the exchange of visits between ASEAN intelligence officers and the establishment of the ASEAN Military Intelligence Community.

Moreover, the regime’s Chief of the General Staff General Maung Maung Aye, Chief of Staff (Army) Lieutenant General Moe Myint Tun and Lt-Gen Ye Win Oo joined the 19th ASEAN Chiefs of Defense Forces Meeting. These key leaders of the military regime are believed to be involved in mass killings and applying scorched-earth tactics — such as the razing of entire villages — against both civilians and the growing resistance movement.

Since last year’s coup, the Myanmar military has been condemned for committing widespread and systematic abuses against civilians that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a March report by the United Nations’s (UN) Human Rights Office, the first comprehensive rights report since the military takeover.

The UN warned that the military regime has shown “flagrant disregard for human life” and has deliberately targeted civilians since seizing power on 1 February 2021.

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