Cambodia PM becomes first foreign government head to visit Myanmar after coup

Bangkok, Jan 7 (EFE).- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived in Myanmar on Friday for an official two-day trip, becoming the first head of a foreign government to visit the country in crisis since the military coup almost a year ago.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin received the Cambodian prime minister at the Naypyidaw airport.

Hun began the visit with a goodwill gesture of donating anti-coronavirus medical supplies to the military-ruled country.

He will meet with coup leader Min Aung Hlaing “to discuss and exchange views on bilateral and multilateral cooperation and the recent developments in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” said a Cambodian foreign ministry statement.

The trip has raised eyebrows among opponents and human rights organizations who see it as a move to grant legitimacy to the military junta that on Feb.1 ended the fledgling Myanmar democracy.

Cambodia hosts the rotating presidency of the regional bloc this year.

The visit by the prime minister is seen as a shift in the Asean policies towards the Myanmar military that faces international isolation.

The trip sparked protests in Depayin, about 300 km (186 miles) north of the capital, Naypyidaw.

Images and videos shared on social media channels showed dozens of protesters in the northern region chanting “Hun Sen do not come to Myanmar” and burning the poster of the Cambodian prime minister.

Several Myanmar and international non-governmental organizations have expressed “concern” over Hun Sen’s alleged “support” for the military and called for an “urgent coordinated international response to end the military junta’s campaign of terror.”

Hun has defended plans for direct engagement with the junta chief, saying they are in line with Asean’s five-point consensus, including the cessation of violence against civilians and dialog with all parties to reach a peaceful solution.

The junta’s failure to comply with these commitments led to the exclusion of Myanmar from Asean leaders’ meetings for the first time in its history.

“Hun Sen’s rogue diplomacy may do more harm than good by breaking ranks with ASEAN’s response to the Myanmar crisis and sending mixed messages,” Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for research, said in a statement Thursday.

Eleven months after the coup, the junta has garnered little support. The military has used alleged violent means to crush dissent, which has so far caused more than 1,440 deaths, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The military junta’s violent repression against civilians continues and has even worsened in some parts of the country, with recent reports of massacres of civilians by the military and airstrikes against villages.

In addition, the self-styled National Unity Government (NUG), formed after the coup by politicians and activists loyal to the deposed leader Aun San Suu Kyi and persecuted by the military, created its militia in May that works alongside some ethnic guerrilla groups and declared a “defensive war” in September.

In the face of Sen’s contentious trip, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn said this week that “all ingredients for the civil war are now on the table” in Myanmar.

“There are two governments, several armed forces; people undergoing the civil disobedience movement, and guerrilla warfare undertaken around the country,” said Sokhonn, who is also the foreign affairs minister. EFE


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