Statement (1/2022) “Statement on the visit of Prime Minister Hun Sen to Myanmar on 7-8 January 2022”

2022 January 10

The National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (NUG) expresses its extreme disappointment at the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia to meet with Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw on 7 and 8 January 2022. Having inserted himself into the Myanmar crisis, Hun Sen must now produce clear results for peace and democracy in Myanmar or he will be seen as having been manipulated by Min Aung Hlaing.

While Hun Sen has since clarified that the bilateral visit in no way recognised the illegal military junta, his rogue expedition, conducted without broad ASEAN support and outside the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus, rewarded the junta for its atrocity crimes against the Myanmar people and severely undermined ASEAN’s unity and authority.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has quickly found himself the target of junta manipulation. The Joint Statement of 7 January and the Cambodian Foreign Minister’s press conference remarks of 8 January 2022 claim that the Cambodian visit sought to ease the conflict and to facilitate humanitarian support. Yet both the escalating conflict and its associated humanitarian crisis are junta induced.

On humanitarian assistance, the visit took no account of the junta’s weaponisation of the COVID-19 pandemic through its deliberate targeted attacks against medical workers and its denial of access to medical treatment and vaccines. Nor was there recognition of the junta’s isolation of communities from food, water and medicine as part of its ‘Four Cuts Strategy’, further propelling the humanitarian crisis.

The Joint Statement speaks of a unilateral junta ceasefire with Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) at a time when continuing junta airstrikes have killed and injured dozens of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more in Magway and Sagaing Regions and in Kayin and Kayah States. The junta is reflexively reaching for its tired old divide-and-conquer strategy, attempting to drive a wedge between EAOs unified in their opposition to the illegal junta. The proposed participation of Prime Minister Hun Sen as ASEAN Chair in “ceasefire talks” would see him and ASEAN further instrumentalised unless all parties, include the EAOs and the NUG, agree to his role and his participation. Without the agreement of all parties, Hun Sen will be the instrument of one, the illegal junta.

The Joint Statement and press conference remarks are also striking for what they omit. They make no mention of democracy, human rights, or the popular will of the Myanmar people. They make no reference to the newly appointed Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar and her complementary role. They offer no commitment to allow the new Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, to meet with all other “concerned parties” as required by the Five-Point Consensus. Unless Hun Sen makes good on these omissions, he leaves himself open to criticism that he has been duped.

ASEAN again finds itself at a crossroads. The Five-Point Consensus expressed a commitment to seeking a peaceful solution in the interests of the Myanmar people. Yet since its failed coup d’état of 1 February 2021,  the junta has murdered no fewer than 1447 persons, increasingly through acts of terror. The junta-induced political, economic and humanitarian crises in Myanmar, combined with the junta’s conduct as a terrorist organisation, constitute a grave threat to regional security and to the interests of ASEAN Members and their populations.

ASEAN’s decision  to exclude representatives of the junta from its 2021 Summits was a clear response to the contempt with which the junta continues to treat ASEAN and the Five-Point Consensus. ASEAN must now take the necessary step of inviting the NUG, as the legitimate representative of the Myanmar people, to attend the ASEAN Summit Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Seam Reap on 18-19 January 2022.

In meeting the Five-Point Consensus, the NUG is committed to working in partnership with ASEAN to restore democracy, to end the junta’s atrocity crimes, and to ensure the urgent provision of humanitarian assistance to all persons in need in Myanmar.

The NUG also stands ready to engage with the new Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar. This must involve in-person meetings with NUG leaders including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, whose continuing authority the UN Security Council, General Assembly,  and Secretary-General  have each affirmed.