Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to Visit Myanmar Next Month

By The Irrawaddy 8 December 2021

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will visit military-ruled Myanmar in January at the invitation of its regime leader, becoming the first head of government to meet the junta chief, who has been internationally denounced for his coup and bloody crackdowns on protesters.

The prime minister confirmed Jan. 7 and 8 as the dates for his visit to Myanmar, during a meeting with Myanmar’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

Eang Sophalleth, the prime minister’s assistant, told reporters that Hun Sen and Wunna Maung Lwin discussed issues related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and possible ways for the bloc to return to its previous state of friendly cooperation and solidarity, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Myanmar is an ASEAN member. Its relations with the bloc have soured recently, however, after the regional group broke with precedent and excluded junta leader Min Aung Hlaing from its summit in October over his failure to honor his commitments to ASEAN to solve the country’s political crisis.

The Southeast Asian country has been in political and social turmoil since the military takeover in February, as a majority of the country’s population has rejected the coup and resisted the regime by all means at their disposal. The junta has killed more than 1,300 people so far, according to monitor groups.

Sophalleth said the foreign minister delivered a letter from Min Aung Hlaing inviting Hun Sen to visit Myanmar on the agreed upon dates.

“In response, [Hun Sen] accepted the invitation and told [Wunna Maung Lwin] that he will visit on the suggested dates,” Sophalleth said.

Hun Sen, who has been condemned internationally for human rights violations at home and is generally seen as a puppet of China, said he would meet Min Aung Hlaing to find a solution to the country’s ongoing crisis so that it could return to the ASEAN fold and attend future meetings with all members. He said a solution can only be found though dialogue with those who currently hold power in Myanmar.

Hun Sen’s visit raises questions over whether ASEAN’s unified stand on Myanmar will last, now that Cambodia has taken over the chairmanship of the 10-member regional bloc. Prior to his confirmation of the visit on Tuesday, he hinted last week that he was ready to travel to Myanmar, which he said had a right to attend ASEAN meetings.

Although Wunna Maung Lwin’s meeting with Hun Sen was made public by Cambodia, the junta remained tightlipped about it as of Wednesday morning.

Badly in need of recognition abroad and respect at home, the junta would likely take seriously any exchange of visits with the country holding the ASEAN chair, as it was stung by the bloc’s decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the summit.

The regime on Monday sentenced to four years’ imprisonment Myanmar’s ousted leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint after accusing them of breaching COVID restrictions and incitement, prompting international condemnation. Min Aung Hlaing later reduced their prison terms to two years’ house arrest.

The UN this week delayed its decision on whether to recognize the junta’s candidate as the country’s representative to the world organization, leaving in place the existing ambassador, who is loyal to the ousted government.

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