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Cambodia to take ‘different approaches’ to Myanmar crisis as ASEAN chair

The comments
by Prak Sokhonn indicate Cambodia, this year’s chair of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), will likely invite junta officials to ASEAN
meetings – possibly starting with a foreign minister’s meeting Jan 17.

The regional
grouping had last year taken the unprecedented step of excluding junta chief
Min Aung Hlaing from its annual leaders’ summit.

Hun Sen, who
himself seized power in a 1997 coup and has in subsequent elections been
criticised over crackdowns on his political opponents, returned from Myanmar on
Saturday after a two-day trip.

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

Myanmar’s
state media on Saturday reported that Min Aung Hlaing had thanked Hun Sun for
“standing with Myanmar”. The army has said its takeover was in
response to election fraud and was in line with the constitution.

Prak
Sokhonn, who accompanied Hun Sen to Myanmar, on Saturday denied the trip
amounted to backing the junta, saying it was another way of working to
implement a five-point ASEAN peace plan adopted in April.

He also
confirmed that Hun Sen did not ask to meet with Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who
has been in detention since the army takeover last year and faces more than a
dozen criminal charges.

Prak
Sokhonn, expected to take up the post as special envoy for Myanmar, said the
refusal of the current envoy, Brunei’s foreign minister, to visit without guarantees
he could meet with Suu Kyi was unproductive.

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“If
they build a thick wall and we use our head to hit it, it is useless,”
Prak Sokhonn told reporters. “Cambodia uses different approaches to
achieve the five-point consensus.”

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