Cambodian PM Defends His Intention to Visit Myanmar

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Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurates the Hyatt Regency hotel in Phnom Penh on December 15. (Hun Sen’s Facebook page)
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Prime Minister Hun Sen said observers and analysts were not his teachers and they should not disturb him, as he recommitted to a visit to coup-afflicted Myanmar next month in an attempt to mediate with the military.

Hun Sen spoke Wednesday morning at the inauguration of a five-star Hyatt Regency near the National Museum, which has repurposed a heritage villa as its foyer. The hotel was built with Cambodian conglomerate Chip Mong Group.

He reiterated that he would visit Myanmar on January 7 and 8 at the invitation of coup leader Min Aung Hlaing — dates that coincide with Cambodia’s celebration of “Victory Day,” when the Khmer Rouge was overthrown in 1979.

The plan has been notable for overriding Asean’s “five-point consensus,” in which the nine other members of the regional bloc advised Myanmar to end the conflict. The bloc has excluded Myanmar from regional events.

Hun Sen’s rapprochement with Myanmar’s military leaders has been seen as potentially legitimizing the coup, and the military has previously blocked access to Myanmar’s former civilian leaders.

A visiting U.S. diplomat also touched on the issue last week, saying “there had been a lot of talk about engagement and so we just made clear about the kind of engagement we think would be the most constructive.”

Hun Sen, however, reiterated on Wednesday that he wanted to find a compromise in Myanmar.

“Please, don’t disturb me. Give me time to work. I am not your teacher, but please don’t consider yourself to be my teacher. Can I ask for this?” he said, in an apparent reference to his critics.

“Cambodia will try to find a compromise in the situation in Myanmar to return to a better one.”

He said Asean had 10 member countries, and the bloc working with only nine of them would create a dangerous precedent.

Hun Sen added that as chair of Asean for the next year, Cambodia would push for a “code of conduct” agreement with China on the South China Sea, a longstanding dispute that has at times pitted Cambodia against the other Asean members. In 2016, Cambodia blocked a joint Asean statement against China on the territorial issue.

Hun Sen denied that Cambodia had stood in the way the last time it hosted an Asean meeting.

“Please don’t force Cambodia to do this or do that. Cambodia might have enough intelligence to be the president of Asean.”

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