Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will visit violence-ridden Myanmar on Friday despite the explosion of two bombs near the Cambodian Embassy on Dec. 31, a Foreign Ministry official said Monday.
The blasts from the two improvised explosive devices caused no damage or casualties but they underscore the turmoil in Myanmar since February 2021, when the country’s military overthrew the elected government. Nearly 1,400 people have been killed and 11,328 have been arrested in the past 11 months, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a nonprofit human rights organization based in Thailand.
Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong told RFA in a written message that he trusts Myanmar to protect the safety of Hun Sen and other Cambodian officials when they visit to “work for a solution” to the crisis and bring Myanmar back into the fold among the other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The planned trip “will not be changed because we trust the host country to protect the safety of the guests,” he wrote.
Cambodia holds the rotating chair of ASEAN for 2022 and has said it will focus on strengthening the 10-member regional political bloc’s centrality and unity.
Brunei, the former chair of ASEAN, was criticized for allowing Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Indonesia in April 2020, where member states agreed to a five-point consensus on Myanmar.
The consensus called for an immediate end of violence in Myanmar, constructive dialogue among all parties, and the creation of a special envoy.
But some ASEAN nations refused to let Min Aung Hlaing attend the ASEAN Summit in October, saying they preferred a non-political figure because the junta did not follow through on the five-point agreement.
Koy Kuong did not respond to a question from RFA about whether Cambodia was concerned that some ASEAN member states might boycott the next summit, which is to be hosted by Cambodia, because of disagreement over Myanmar.
Hun Sen has acknowledged Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chief of Myanmar’s military and the junta government, as the country’s head of state.
Some Burmese have condemned Hun Sen on social media and burned photos of him in public for planning to meet with junta leaders, and have pledged to protest against the presence of the prime minister and his one-party government.
Cambodia is leading ASEAN in the wrong direction, causing it to be divided over the Myanmar issue, said Ear Sophal, an associate dean and professor at the Thunderbird School of Management in Phoenix, Arizona.
“[It is] totally splintering ASEAN and making the organization look foolish,” he said. “If ASEAN cannot stand up to Myanmar’s generals, the [member states] might as well go home.
“Cambodia has no credibility when it comes to democracy,” he said. “Of course, Hun Sen wants to embrace the Myanmar generals — they are the same, but different.”
Ear Sophal also said that the participation of Myanmar’s military leaders in the next ASEAN Summit would likely lead the heads of some member states to boycott the meeting.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.