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Cambodian PM's visit to Myanmar sparks protests

January 7, 2022

Hun Sen's trip marked the first official visit by a country's leader to Myanmar since last year's coup. It has angered local and international human rights campaigners.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, reviews an honor guard with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, right.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) is in Myanmar for a two-day visitImage: An Khoun Sam Aun/AP/picture alliance

Protests and rallies were held across Myanmar on Friday as Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen arrived for a meeting with the military junta.

He is the first foreign leader to visit the country since a military coup in February 2021 toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government.

Demonstrators feared his trip would provide legitimacy to the junta.

Hun Sen's visit provoked an angry backlash

Protesters burned portraits of the Cambodian leader and chanted, "Hun Sen don't come to Myanmar. We don't want dictator Hun Sen," videos of the protest posted online showed.

Demonstrations took place in Myanmar's cultural and religious city of Mandalay, Depayin, and the Tanintharyi and Monywa regions.

Hun Sen met coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyitaw.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the meeting was "an affront to the people of Myanmar who strongly oppose the visit."

The National Unity Government, an underground Myanmar opposition group and parallel administration, urged Hun Sen to stay away.

"Meeting Min Aung Hlaing, shaking blood-stained hands. It's not going to be acceptable," said Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the group who uses one name.

Why is Hun Sen in Myanmar?

Cambodia is chairing the regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc, which has been leading diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

"What I would like to bring to the talks is nothing besides the five points, consensus points that were agreed upon by all ASEAN member states," Hun Sen said on Wednesday before leaving Cambodia.

Some ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, have expressed frustration at the junta's failure to implement the plan. 

Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Research Emerlynne Gil said ASEAN should take decisive action to address the country's "dire human rights situation." 

Myanmar's military has said Hun Sen will not meet Suu Kyi, who is serving a two-year prison sentence. On Friday, she was also in court, facing more charges, including that she abused her authority.

According to the independent watchdog Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 1,445 people have been killed and 8,437 arrested, charged, or sentenced in the military's brutal campaign against dissent in Myanmar.

lo/fb (AP, AFP, Reuters)