Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen Becomes Myanmar’s First Foreign Leader Since the Military Coup

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The military junta in Myanmar (Burma) has rolled out the red carpet for Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. He comes on behalf of the Regional Organization of Southeast Asia (ASEAN) to negotiate a way out of the crisis in Myanmar since the army took power there almost a year ago.

 

That red carpet was literally there when Hun Sen got off the plane in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar. He was met by top men of the military regime and afterwards met with chief of staff and junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing. The latter had exchanged his military uniform for a traditional Burmese costume for the occasion. After that, however, a meeting with the deposed and imprisoned government leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi will not be possible, the regime in Myanmar said.

Hun Sen is the prime minister of tiny Cambodia but comes in the name of ASEAN, the bloc of ten countries in Southeast Asia, including Myanmar. Hun Sen wants to start a dialogue between the junta in Myanmar and the democratic opposition to that regime, something that was agreed in April last year but in which no progress has been made. On the contrary, the army’s violence against popular protest and against minorities in the border areas has only increased. The opposition in Myanmar is angry and says Hun Sen’s arrival “provides legitimacy to the junta in the country”. (Read more below the photo).

ASEAN is very bored with the issue: countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia have a more or less democratic tradition. They want the reinstatement of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in Myanmar. Other member states have a more authoritarian regime, such as the communist governments in Vietnam and Laos. Although he has hung his uniform on the coat rack, a junta leader is also in power in Thailand.

In Cambodia itself, Hun Sen is also a very authoritarian leader who is cracking down on the opposition. In addition, he was a member of the extreme communist terror group Khmer Rouge in his early years before he defected and was helped to power by Vietnamese troops. In recent years, Hun Sen has mainly become an ally of China, and that country supports the military dictatorship in Myanmar.

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