Diplomatic retreat of top ASEAN diplomat to exclude Myanmar junta envoy, Cambodia – Radio Free Asia

The foreign minister of Myanmar’s military regime will not be invited to an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ministerial retreat in mid-February, Cambodia’s host said Thursday, citing the lack of movement on a deal the regional bloc struck with the junta leader last year. .

“Since there has been little progress in realizing the ASEAN five-point consensus, ASEAN member states have not reached consensus to invite the Foreign Minister of the Administrative Council of State of Myanmar to participate in the next FM retreat which will be hosted by Cambodia,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Phnom Penh. ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said in a written comment to RFA’s Khmer Service.

“Therefore, we asked Myanmar to send an apolitical representative instead. In the meantime, we encourage Myanmar to be represented at the retirement by a non-political figure, rather than leaving the seat empty. It is up to Myanmar to decide,” he added. The retreat is scheduled for February 16.

The decision came a week after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, ASEAN’s rotating chairman for 2022, urged junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing during a video conference to stick to the five-point consensus. points.

Min Aung Hlaing, who led the February 1, 2020 overthrow of Myanmar’s democratically elected government and leads the junta, accepted the consensus when he met ASEAN leaders in Jakarta last April at a convened summit to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

The agreement calls for an end to the violence, for dialogue between the junta and the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD), and for the ASEAN special envoy and delegation to travel to Myanmar to meet all The parties involved.

Myanmar marked the first anniversary of the coup on Tuesday with no progress to show on these issues, while last year security forces arrested nearly 8,900 civilians and killed more than 1,500. The military conflict engulfed large swaths of the country of 54 million, displacing more than 300,000 people.

Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service, Cambodian political analyst Seng Sary said Cambodia adopted the ASEAN way of dealing with regional affairs after Prime Minister Hun Sen exhausted his efforts on his own.

Hun Sen’s January 7-8 trip to Myanmar – the first by a foreign leader since the coup – drew widespread criticism for lending legitimacy to the regime.

“It seems that Cambodia is listening to criticism from other ASEAN members and the international community,” Seng Sary said.

“Cambodia is disappointed” at the lack of progress with the junta, but “does not consider the Myanmar issue as its priority”, he added, suggesting that Phnom Penh would “pass the hot stone” to Indonesia. , chair of ASEAN next year.

Burma’s junta spokesman did not return phone calls from RFA for comment, but the head of a pro-military Myanmar think tank ignored a decision he said was anticipated by the regime and criticized ASEAN for bowing to external pressure.

“We already expected that Myanmar would not be invited to attend the meeting. This decision is neither big nor significant,” said Thein Tun Oo, director of the Thaeninga Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank in Naypyidaw founded by former military officers.

“As we said before, Myanmar’s internal affairs will not be greatly affected because we will not be able to attend (ASEAN) meetings.”

Thein Tun Oo added that “ASEAN decision-making [regarding Myanmar] derogated from its fundamental principles” such as non-interference in the affairs of other members.

“We accepted that there was a change in the political dynamics within ASEAN, but we also saw that there was some external pressure from other powerful nations,” he said. -he adds.

Cambodia’s announcement was welcomed by the National Unity Government (NUG) made up of former lawmakers and officials ousted in the coup.

“ASEAN countries have now firmly shown their position and seriousness on the five-point consensus,” said Bo Hla Tint, the NUG special representative to ASEAN.

He called on ASEAN, other diplomatic partners and UN agencies to “seek a more strategic, results-oriented and practical approach to ending violence in the country and enabling equal humanitarian access to all communities.” in need”.

Than Soe Naing, an analyst of political and ethnic affairs in Myanmar, called the expulsion of the junta envoy “good news that bodes well for the people of Myanmar and the NUG”, which has helped to dispel concerns. fears that ASEAN will “give the green light” to the junta.

“But now ASEAN is holding firm to its consensus which was aimed at helping resolve the country’s crisis. The democratic forces of Myanmar are very grateful for this decision.

Reported by the RFA Khmer Service and by Khin Khin Ei and Khat Mar of the Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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