‘Don’t Bother Me’ Hun Sen Tells Critics of Plan to Meet Myanmar Junta Leader

By The Irrawaddy 15 December 2021

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen slammed critics of his planned meeting with the Myanmar military junta’s leader with the retort “Don’t bother me,” insisting that his visit to the military-ruled coutnry was aimed helping to repair the image of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Hun Sun is scheduled to visit Myanmar and meet regime leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing early next month. The trip has come under fire as he will be the first head of a foreign government to see the coup leader, whose forces have killed more than 1,300 people since seizing power from the country’s elected government in February.

Cambodia is now the chair of ASEAN. Myanmar, a member of the regional bloc, has been in political and social turmoil since the coup as a majority of its people reject the takeover, even 11 months on. Relations between Myanmar and ASEAN turned sour recently after the bloc sidelined the regime’s leader from its summit for failing to take agreed-upon steps to resolve the crisis.

“Give me a chance to solve [the issue],” Hun Sen said on Wednesday, according to media outlet Cambodianess.

“ASEAN can’t be called ASEAN if there’re only nine members. ASEAN must save itself from the ASEAN 9 situation,” he said, referring to Myanmar’s exclusion from a summit recently held by the bloc, which is made up of 10 Southeast Asian nations.

He received Myanmar’s junta-appointed foreign minister last week in Phnom Penh.

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 regional bloc. Prior to his confirmation of the visit last week, he hinted that he was ready to travel to Myanmar, which he said had a right to attend ASEAN meetings.

Badly in need of recognition abroad and respect at home, the junta would likely take seriously a visit from the country holding the ASEAN chair, as it was stung by the bloc’s decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the summit. At the same time, Hun Sen has faced criticism that his visit will provide some legitimacy to the bloodstained regime.“Please do not bother me, give me time [to meet the leader of Myanmar]. I am not your teacher and you are not my teacher,” he said in response to critics of his visit, according to the Cambodian media.

US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet urged Cambodia last week not to make any concessions to Myanmar’s military junta when Phnom Penh chairs ASEAN.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is now in Southeast Asia. During his meeting with the Malaysian foreign minister on Wednesday, the secretary said the US was looking at what additional steps to take against Myanmar’s regime and said ASEAN leaders had been invited to hold talks at a summit with US President Joe Biden in Washington in the coming months.

In October, Biden joined the ASEAN summit, from which the regime was excluded.

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