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Friday, May 27, 2022

Cambodia prime minister’s trip to Myanmar was not to legitimize the junta, says minister delegate

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar this month was not intended to grant legitimacy to the military junta, which overthrew the elected government nearly a year ago, according to the minister delegate attached to the premier’s office.

Instead, the trip was aimed at resolving the crisis, Kao Kim Hourn told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“The situation in Myanmar requires that we need to keep the dialogue open. And of course, our prime minister’s visit was to focus on the ceasefire and violence on the ground,” he said, adding the visit “by no means is to lend legitimacy to the Myanmar military regime.”

The military junta ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup last February, sparking fierce clashes between her supporters and the army.

“Since the February 1 military coup, Burma is facing a grave political, economic, human rights, and humanitarian crisis due to a brutal crackdown by a powerful military that acts with impunity,” the US State Department said in a June statement last year.

Hun Sen visited Myanmar in early January for talks with its military rulers – the first by a head of government to the Southeast Asian nation since the coup.

Cambodia is the current new chair of the regional 10-member bloc — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN has been struggling to get Myanmar’s military government to stick to a five-point consensus plan agreed to in April, which includes ending the violence.

Kim Hourn said Cambodia “backs all the five points” and as the current chair of ASEAN, aims to “implement the five-point consensus” plan.

He said the prime minister’s visit was mainly aimed at coordinating a ceasefire, delivering humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar people, and paving the way for ASEAN’s special envoy on Myanmar to have access to all parties concerned.

When asked if Cambodia would be willing to engage and hold talks with ousted leader Suu Kyi, Kim Hourn said “indeed.” The 76-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate was recently sentenced to four more years in prison by the military junta.

An anti-coup protester holds up a placard featuring de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on March 2, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar.

Hkun Lat | Getty Images News | Getty Images

“The role of chair is to engage with everyone,” he said, adding the goal is to get ASEAN’s special envoy “to go to Myanmar as early as possible.”

Last week, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen during a video call that there has not been “any significant progress” in the implementation of ASEAN’s five-point plan.

According to a statement by the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there were further attacks against political opponents, and “additional prison sentences were imposed on Ms Aung San Suu Kyi” days after Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar.

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