Hun Sen Asks Japanese Envoy to Work With ASEAN on Myanmar Crisis

By The Irrawaddy 9 March 2022

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked Japanese Special Envoy Yohei Sasakawa to work with Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who is serving as the ASEAN chair’s special envoy on Myanmar, in his efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar.

The request was made at a meeting between Hun Sen and Sasakawa, who is also the president of the Nippon Foundation, at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on Monday.

Sasakawa, Japan’s special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, has for several years enjoyed good relations not only with Myanmar’s ousted and detained democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, but also with the country’s coup leader, Min Aung Hlaing. In 2020, his intervention helped bring an end to several years of fighting between the Myanmar military and the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army. Despite his influence, however, the junta did not allow Sasakawa to meet with the detained pro-democracy leader during his visit to the country late last year.

According to a post on Hun Sen’s official Facebook page on Monday, Sasakawa told the prime minister he supported the latter’s early-January visit to Myanmar, which was largely denounced by Myanmar people. The visit was made in an effort to thaw frosty relations between Myanmar and ASEAN, which shunned Min Aung Hlaing from its summits after he failed to honor his five-point agreement with the bloc by, among other things, ending the violence that has devastated the country since last year’s military coup. More than 1,500 people have been killed by the junta.

Hun Sen later admitted that Myanmar’s regime had made no progress in resolving the crisis and said a solution was unlikely during the remainder of his year as holder of ASEAN’s rotating chair.

In Monday’s Facebook post, however, he said that as chair he would continue making every effort to resolve the Myanmar crisis, adding that he had asked Sasakawa to continue working with Prak Sokhonn.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun told The Irrawaddy that he supported Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request for Sasakawa to participate in seeking a resolution to the Myanmar crisis.

“We all are aware that Japan is one of the influential countries in the region in political conflict coordination,” he said.

Prak Sokhonn is due to pay a four-day visit to Myanmar on March 20-23 in an effort to find a solution to the crisis. It’s not yet clear if he will try to meet detained democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

After his five-day visit last year, Sasakawa said he met with a senior NLD figure but declined to name the person. He also met with regime leader Min Aung Hlaing and representatives of political parties.

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