Phnom Penh – Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on Tuesday (Jan 25) that he had invited Myanmar’s junta head to an Asean summit on the condition that he make progress on a peace plan agreed to last year.
Hun Sen, the Asean head, said he will speak with military chief Min Aung Hlaing via video on Wednesday, noting that since their Jan. 7 meeting in Myanmar, ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to four years in prison and military aircraft have been deployed in operations.
Last year, Min Aung Hlaing organized a coup in Myanmar, and Asean surprised the world by excluding his junta from important meetings for failing to honor a five-point Asean “agreement” that included ending hostilities and permitting talks.
“He (Hun Sen) said that he had invited HE (His Excellency) Min Aung Hlaing to attend the ASEAN summit if there was progress in the implementation of the five points unanimously agreed upon,” according to a statement on Hun Sen’s Facebook page summarizing a call with Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
“However, if such is not the case, he must send a non-political representative to Asean meetings.”
Cambodia, as the new Asean chair, has signalled that it wishes to interact rather than isolate the junta, but Hun Sen has been pressured by numerous Asean leaders, including those of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, not to abandon the pact, which is backed by the UN and the US.
The toppling of Myanmar’s elected government by Aung San Suu Kyi has been a blow for Asean’s aspirations to promote itself as a legitimate and united grouping.
The group was concerned that Hun Sen’s travel to Myanmar would imply Asean approval of the generals who had led a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy groups.
The Myanmar problem has exposed cracks, and Hun Sen this week slammed Malaysia’s foreign minister, calling him arrogant for expressing concern over his meeting with the junta head.
The Asean agreement calls for offensives to be halted and full access to a special Asean envoy to all parties involved in the conflict.
According to a foreign ministry statement, Malaysian leader Ismail Sabri reminded Hun Sen that there was an urgent need to de-escalate the Myanmar crisis and release Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.