Cambodia’s PM heads to Myanmar for junta talks despite criticism

Bangkok, Jan 7 (EFE).- Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen was traveling to Myanmar on Friday to begin a two-day official visit, becoming the first head of state to visit the country since the February military coup.

Hun Sen 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),” the Cambodian foreign affairs ministry said in a statement.

Cambodia’s gesture 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 Myanmar’s fledgling democracy.

On Tuesday, nearly 200 international civil society organizations from Myanmar and Cambodia strongly condemned Hun Sen’s alleged “support” for the junta and called for an “urgent coordinated international response to immediately halt the junta’s campaign of terror.”

Hun Sen has defended plans for direct engagement with the junta chief, saying that his aims are in line with ASEAN’s five-point consensus, which includes 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 Myanmar being excluded from regional leaders’ meetings for the first time in ASEAN 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 in the country despite the violence used against 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 air strikes 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 own militia in May that works alongside some ethnic guerrilla groups and declared a “defensive war” in September.

In the face of Hun 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 foreign affairs minister. EFE


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