Cambodia vows to work with Myanmar's junta

Cambodia vows to work with Myanmar's junta

FILE PHOTO: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony of the Project for Flood Protection, donated by Japan, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 4, 2019. (Reuters)
FILE PHOTO: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony of the Project for Flood Protection, donated by Japan, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, March 4, 2019. (Reuters)

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday he planned to visit Myanmar for talks with the country's military rulers and to help mend divisions within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Cambodia will work with Myanmar's military regime, the country's premier said Monday, breaking ranks with fellow Asean nations in the regional bloc.

Leaders in the 10-country body have struggled to handle Myanmar following February's coup, with more than 1,300 people killed by security forces according to a local monitoring group.

The junta has refused to allow an Asean-appointed envoy to meet with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, earning military chief Min Aung Hlaing a snub from the bloc's regional summit.

But Cambodian strongman Hun Sen vowed his country, which assumes the Asean chairmanship role in 2022 under a rotating schedule, would work with Myanmar's military leaders.

"Tomorrow I will meet with Myanmar's foreign minister in the name of Cambodia... There is a big possibility that I will go to Naypyidaw to meet General Min Aung Hlaing to work with him," he said in a speech.

"There is only one way, it's to work with the ruler (of Myanmar)," he said.

Hun Sen also said that the junta chief had the right to attend Asean summits.

"If there is a meeting, we have to invite all... If it is the meeting of the leaders, we invite a leader," he said.

"It has to be like this," he added.

The 69-year-old premier is among the world's longest-serving leaders, and critics say his administration maintains an iron-clad rule by jailing opposition activists and silencing dissent.

He is also regarded as a staunch ally of Beijing, meeting last month with China's premier Li Keqiang by video conference.

In 2012, the last time Cambodia held the Asean chairmanship, the bloc deadlocked on the contentious South China Sea dispute -- making it the first time in the body's history that a joint communique was not issued.

Myanmar's junta has justified the coup by alleging electoral fraud in last year's poll, and Suu Kyi faces a raft of charges that could see her jailed for decades if convicted.

On Monday, a junta court sentenced her to four years for incitement against the military and breaching coronavirus rules.

 

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