Hun Sen Slammed After Scolding Critics of Myanmar Junta’s ‘Peace’ Bid

By The Irrawaddy 13 May 2022

The current holder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s rotating chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, has attracted Myanmar people’s fury for the second time after lecturing them that by opposing his efforts to promote the military regime’s “peace talks” they risked destroying their country and killing innocent people.

Hun Sen is now in Washington to attend the US-ASEAN Summit. During his meeting with Cambodians living in the United States and Canada, he said, “Myanmar’s Senior General Min Aung Hlaing requested the ASEAN chair to talk with the other armed groups to sign a ceasefire agreement. Therefore, I would like to appeal to all Myanmar protesters who are planning to protest against me to stop this action. Otherwise, it will destroy their own country and kill the innocent people,” according to Fresh News.

Myanmar has been in social and political turmoil since the military coup in February last year as people across the country oppose—in forms ranging from peaceful protest to armed struggle—military rule in their country. The junta has killed more than 1,800 people so far and is facing a widespread armed resistance movement that has earned support from some of the country’s most powerful ethnic armed groups. Its relations with ASEAN have soured as the regime has failed to honor the bloc’s peace plan for Myanmar.

Since assuming the ASEAN chair early this year, Hun Sen has been trying to broker good relations between the regional grouping and the regime. He visited Myanmar in January, becoming the first international figure to meet regime leader Min Aung Hlaing. His visit was seriously denounced by Myanmar people, who saw it as granting legitimacy to the junta, which has been condemned internationally for the coup and its brutality against protesters.

The Cambodian prime minister’s remarks on Thursday follow the regime’s effort to invite the country’s ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) to peace talks, in a bid to persuade them not to ally themselves with resistance forces. A majority of the EAOs have officially refused to join the talks, pointing out that they will exclude major stakeholders like Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and its armed wing, the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). Many in Myanmar see the invitation as a sham aimed at driving a wedge between the resistance forces and some EAOs who have been supporting the anti-regime movement.

Unsurprisingly, Hun Sen’s reckless comment on Thursday attracted condemnation.

The NUG’s Acting President Duwa La Shila said on Twitter that he was “very disappointed” with Hun Sen’s comment, describing it as “insulting Myanmar people who protest criminal junta’s sham peace talks.”

On Myanmar’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, the Cambodian prime minister faced harsher responses.

One user said, “WTF does he think he’s saying!”

Another said, “[Hun Sen] reveals who is Myanmar people’s friend and foe.”

A local political analyst said the ASEAN chair’s comments show he has no idea what is happening in Myanmar and that he was being used by Min Aung Hlaing.

“People and EAOs are protesting the talks because they simply don’t believe in the regime and it doesn’t mean that they don’t want peace,” he said.

He said the EAOs shunned the talks because they were aware that the regime was trying to coax them into crushing the PDFs.

“After they [the regime] take control of the PDFs, they will turn to the ethnic armed groups. The EAOs know it very well and that’s why they have turned down the offer,” he said, referring to the previous regime’s so-called peace process, which saw it engage with some ethnic armed groups in the 1990s in the wake of the pro-democracy uprising in 1988. After they took full control of the country, peace talks with some major EAOs collapsed and the fighting resumed.

Asked whether Hun Sen’s call for EAOs to join the peace talks this time, as Min Aung Hlaing has requested, could yield a breakthrough, the political analyst said: “Not at all.”

“The EAOs won’t believe him [Hun Sen] as he himself is also a dictator!”

Min Aung Hlaing and Hun Sen recently met via a teleconference. Given the Cambodian prime minister’s remarks on Thursday, it appears likely that Min Aung Hlaing used the call to ask Hun Sen to urge the EAOs to join the peace talks.

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