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Cambodia PM visit to Myanmar sparks protests from coup opponents

His visit will be the first by a head of government to
Myanmar since the army overthrew the elected administration of Aung San Suu Kyi
on Feb 1 last year, sparking months of protests and a bloody crackdown.

Cambodia is current chair of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations, which has been leading diplomatic efforts to resolve
the crisis in Myanmar and which adopted a five-point “consensus”
peace plan in April.

Some other ASEAN countries including Indonesia have
expressed frustration at the junta’s failure to implement the peace deal, which
has fanned divisions in the 10-member bloc.

In Myanmar, opponents of military rule have said Hun
Sen is backing the junta by making the trip.

In Depayin, about 300 km (186 miles) north of the
capital Naypyidaw, protesters burned a poster of the Cambodian prime minister
and chanted “Hun Sen don’t come to Myanmar. We don’t want dictator Hun
Sen”, photographs on social media showed.

There were also reports of protests in Mandalay and
the Tanintharyi and Monywa regions.

In a speech on Wednesday, Hun Sen called for restraint
from all sides in Myanmar and for the peace plan to be followed through.

“Brothers in Myanmar, do you want your country to
fall into a real civil war or want it solved?” he said. “The first
point of the consensus is the patience, the cessation of violence. This is the
goal that we want.”

After a phone call this week with Hun Sen, Indonesian
President Joko Widodo said in messages on Twitter if there was no significant
progress in the peace plan only non-political representatives from Myanmar
should be allowed at ASEAN meetings

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Min Ko Naing, a leading activist in Myanmar, said in a
social media post that Hun Sen would face massive protests over his visit,
which would hurt ASEAN.

The General Strike Coordination Body, which pools more
than 260 organisations opposed to the coup in Myanmar, also denounced Hun Sen’s
visit, accusing him of backing Myanmar’s military rulers.

Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest serving leaders
and Western countries and human rights groups have long condemned him for
crackdowns on opponents, civil rights groups and the media in Cambodia.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for
Research Emerlynne Gil said Hun Sen should cancel his trip and “lead ASEAN
to strong action to address the country’s dire human rights situation”.

The Cambodian foreign ministry said Hun Sen will meet
military leader Min Aung Hlaing, but the US-funded RFA (Radio Free Asia) cited
a junta spokesman as saying he would not meet Suu Kyi, who is on trial and
faces nearly a dozen cases that carry a combined maximum sentences of more than
100 years in prison.

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