Singapore PM: Keep Myanmar junta out of Asean talks

Singapore PM: Keep Myanmar junta out of Asean talks

Lee Hsien Loong tells Cambodian PM that as Asean chair he should engage 'all parties concerned'

Refugees who have fled a flare-up in fighting between the Myanmar army and insurgent groups and settled temporarily on the bank of the Moei River, bathe in the river waters in Mae Sot, Thailand on Jan 7. (Reuters Photo)
Refugees who have fled a flare-up in fighting between the Myanmar army and insurgent groups and settled temporarily on the bank of the Moei River, bathe in the river waters in Mae Sot, Thailand on Jan 7. (Reuters Photo)

SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Asean should continue to exclude Myanmar’s military junta from the group’s meetings until it cooperates on an agreed peace plan.

In a video call on Friday, Mr Lee urged the regional group’s new chair, Cambodia, to engage all sides in the conflict in Myanmar, Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Mr Lee told his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen that Asean should continue inviting a non-political representative from Myanmar to its meetings. Any decision to change that “had to be based on new facts”, he said.

His remarks follow a controversial visit last week by Hun Sen to Myanmar, where he met Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing, whom Asean excluded from its November leaders’ summit for his failure to implement the five-point plan to end hostilities and allow dialogue after a coup last year.

Malaysia’s foreign minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, made similar comments on Thursday, saying some Asean members felt Hun Sen should have discussed his trip with fellow leaders beforehand, as it could be seen as recognising the junta.

Mr Lee told Hun Sen that any engagement with Myanmar needed to include “all parties concerned”, including the ousted ruling party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Singaporean leader said that despite Myanmar’s peace commitments, the military has made further attacks against its political opponents and imposed further prison sentences on Aung San Suu Kyi, who was hit with even more charges this week.

Hun Sen made some proposals to Mr Lee on how to coordinate a ceasefire in Myanmar and deliver humanitarian assistance, according to the statement. Mr Lee responded these could be complicated because there had been no access to all parties, although Singapore did not object to the idea in principle.

All of Cambodia’s proposals, as Asean chair, should be further discussed among Asean foreign ministers, Mr Lee said, according to the foreign ministry statement.

“Prime Minister Lee hoped that Cambodia would consider his views and those of other Asean leaders,” it said.

Cambodia on Wednesday postponed the inaugural meeting of its Asean chairmanship, a gathering of foreign ministers scheduled for next week, because some ministers had expressed “difficulties” in attending.

Mr Lee’s remarks also come days after Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said on his Facebook page that Singapore backed Cambodia’s approach on the Myanmar crisis.


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