Prime Minister Hun Sen’s controversy-inducing Asean chairmanship continued Friday morning as he called the Malaysian foreign minister “arrogant” for making inappropriate remarks about him as an Asean leader.
Since a ceremony October 28, when Hun Sen joyfully held up the ceremonial Asean gavel to become chair for a year, he has caused concern and consternation by drawing close to the Myanmar military junta, which took power in a coup in February.
He visited junta leader Min Aung Hlaing earlier this month as Myanmar protesters burned his portraits, saying he was legitimizing the coup government. Political observers said Hun Sen was conducting “cowboy diplomacy” and breaking an earlier Asean consensus against the coup.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told Hun Sen afterward in a video call that “he was unsure what role ASEAN or the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy on Myanmar could play in coordinating a ceasefire since we did not even have access to all parties,” according to Singapore.
Hun Sen did not meet deposed Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit.
Lee also noted that attacks against the Myanmar junta’s political opponents continued, notably new jail terms and charges against Aung San Suu Kyi. Meanwhile, military groups in Myanmar said refugee camps were being shelled and homes burned despite a supposed “ceasefire.”
Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also said Hun Sen should have consulted other Asean leaders before visiting Myanmar, and that the visit had not achieved anything, according to Reuters.
According to the Council of Ministers, Hun Sen held a 35-minute call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday morning.
During the conversation, Hun Sen asked Joko Widodo to send a message to Saifuddin via Indonesia’s foreign minister, according to the cabinet statement.
“As we know, he used to work in the opposition,” Hun Sen said. “What he did was not right within the Asean framework, and in the sending message, samdech warned that the foreign minister should not be too arrogant.”
Saifuddin had made “inappropriate remarks to an ASEAN leader — in particular, the chair of ASEAN — which does not suit diplomatic language,” Hun Sen said. “He lacks politeness.”
Hun Sen also told Joko Widodo that he was thinking long-term, that he wanted “to plant trees, not cut down trees.”
“Those who did not support him seemed to think that planting trees takes only one or two days and want immediate fruit,” the Council of Ministers statement said.
Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry press contacts and the Malaysian Embassy have not immediately replied to requests for comment.
Government media outlet AKP also said Joko had “lauded the effort of Cambodia in making conducive environment for negotiation on Myanmar issue” during the conversation.
The Indonesian Embassy and listed contacts for the Indonesian cabinet and Foreign Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond whether this was an accurate characterization of Joko Widodo’s views.