Briefs: Extortion Suspects Nabbed, Myanmar Says Civilian Leaders Off Limits

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Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn at the Asean foreign ministers summit in Phnom Penh on February 17, 2022. (Foreign Affairs Ministry Facebook)
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A foreign national wanted for kidnapping and torture was arrested in the NagaWorld 2 complex last week, according to a National Police official.

Ngeng Chou, head of National Police’s penal crime department, said one Chinese national — Yi Xaozen, according to a translation from Khmer — was arrested at the casino complex on February 17, after which he was sent to court and then prison. 

Chou said police had a court warrant to arrest Yi but that the man’s case was not related to torture. Local media reports say Yi was arrested because he had been convicted by a court two years prior under Articles 353 and 393 for theft under aggravating circumstances of torture and cruelty. 

In a separate arrest, Zhang Yanfeng was arrested on February 16 for illegal detention and extortion of $44,000, according to a National Police webpost. Zhang was arrested at a hotel in Phnom Penh and sent to court, the post stated. Court spokesperson Y Rin did not respond to requests for comment. 

Cambodia has witnessed an increase in reports of extortion, kidnapping and murder, much of which are seen to be linked with the growth of scam operations in the country, especially in Sihanoukville. 

— Mech Dara

Myanmar Takes Umbrage with Asean Envoy Wanting to Meet NUG

The Myanmar Foreign Ministry balked at suggestions Cambodia’s foreign minister and new Asean envoy Prak Sokhonn should meet the National Unity Government (NUG) — formed by exiled civilian political leaders ousted by the coup — during Sokhonn’s proposed visit in March.

At the conclusion of an Asean meeting last week, Sokhonn announced that he planned to visit Myanmar next month, stating to a reporter that he would try to facilitate talks between the NUG and the Myanmar junta. 

The Myanmar Foreign Ministry on Sunday posted on its Facebook page that the junta government’s Anti-Terrorism Central Committee of Myanmar had declared the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and NUG to be designated terrorists groups in the country. The ministry stated it took umbrage with suggestions that Sokhonn should meet these organizations. 

“Suggesting the special envoy to engage with such groups are not only contrary to the principles of the ASEAN Charter but also undermine ASEAN’s counter-terrorism efforts,” the post reads. 

“In this regard, the Ministry again urges the two members not to use ASEAN platforms to make such comments and encourages to condemn the terrorist acts,” the ministry said, referring to two unnamed Asean member states. 

Prime Minister Hun Sen has faced criticism for attempting to normalize relations with Myanmar’s military leadership, especially during the premier’s visit to the country in January. Myanmar military officials had made clear before the visit that Hun Sen would not meet jailed State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. 

Charles Santiago, chair of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights network, said Friday the group was encouraged to see bloc members pressing to meet NUG representatives.

“We welcome Cambodia’s repositioning to respect ASEAN’s stance to hold the junta accountable to the Five-Point Consensus,” Santiago said. “Prak Sokhonn, as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, must now ensure that he meets with all stakeholders, including the National Unity Government (NUG), civil society, and detained leaders such as Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Santiago also said the bloc should find ways to support Myanmar’s “local non-state actors and networks that the people already trust” that are now working to provide humanitarian assistance.

— Compiled by Ananth Baliga

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