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Cambodian premier draws flak over visit to Burma

by The Associated Press | January 8, 2022 at 5:07 a.m.
FILE - In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, right, greets with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Dec. 7, 2021. Prime Minister Hun Sen begins a visit to strife-torn Myanmar on Friday, Jan. 7, that he hopes will invigorate efforts by Southeast Asian nations to start a peace process, but critics say will legitimize the rule of the military that took power last year and its campaign of violence. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP, File)

BANGKOK -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Burma seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power.

Hun Sen is the first head of government to visit Burma since the military takeover last February. The authoritarian Cambodian leader has held power for 36 years and keeps a tight leash on political activity at home.

In his role as the current chairperson of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he met with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, plunging Burma into violent conflict and economic disaster.

Photos posted by a military-related publication, the Popular News Journal, showed the two standing side by side wearing masks, bumping forearms and seated on ornate gilt chairs before an elaborate golden screen.

The Myanmar Information Ministry said the two held talks on bilateral ties and issues of mutual concern, including ASEAN.

Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that ruling military authorities adopted in 1989; regime opponents have refused to adopt the name change, as have the U.S. and Britain.

Protests and rallies were held in some parts of Burma as people expressed anger over Hun Sen's visit.

Hundreds of protesters burned portraits of the Cambodian prime minister and chanted, "Torch inhumane Hun Sen. People who engage with Min Aung Hlaing should die horrible deaths," videos of the protest posted online showed.

Last April, ASEAN leaders, including Min Aung Hlaing, agreed on a five-point road map toward a peaceful settlement of the Burma crisis, including an end to violence and a political dialogue between all stakeholders.

The Burmese leader in October was barred from attending ASEAN meetings after the group's special envoy was prevented from meeting with Suu Kyi and other political detainees, which was one of the stipulations of the agreement.

Hun Sen said Wednesday before leaving Cambodia that he had not set any preconditions for his visit.

"What I would like to bring to the talks is nothing besides the five points, consensus points that were agreed upon by all ASEAN member states," he said.

Burma's military has said Hun Sen will not be allowed to meet with Suu Kyi, who was convicted in December on charges of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions and sentenced to four years in prison -- a sentence that Min Aung Hlaing then cut in half.

A legal official familiar with Suu Kyi's legal proceedings said she appeared at a special court in Naypyitaw, Burma's capital, on Friday for hearings in three corruption cases against her that include allegations that she diverted charitable donations to build a residence and abused her authority.

Hun Sen's visit drew international criticism. His decision to meet with Min Aung Hlaing was "an affront to the people of Myanmar who strongly oppose the visit," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

Hun Sen was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn, the current ASEAN special envoy, and other top Cambodian leaders.

The National Unity Government, an underground Burmese opposition group and parallel administration, had urged Hun Sen to stay away.

"Meeting Min Aung Hlaing, shaking blood-stained hands. It's not going to be acceptable," said Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the group who uses one name.

Information for this article was contributed by Sopheng Cheang, Kiko Rosario and Jerry Harmer of The Associated Press.

  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center left, reviews an honor guard with Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, center right, on his arrival at Naypyitaw International Airport in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday, Jan 7, 2022. (An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, walks together with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, second from right, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, sits together with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, right, during a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, center left, greets with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, center right, during a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, greets with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, right, during a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, poses for photographs together with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, right, before holding a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this image taken from video broadcast by Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, and Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing hold a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army’s seizure of power. (MRTV via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this image made from video broadcast by Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing stand together before holding a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army’s seizure of power. (MRTV via AP)
 
 
  photo  In this photo provided by An Khoun Sam Aun/National Television of Cambodia, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, left, poses for photographs together with Myanmar State Administration Council Chairman, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, right, before holding a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday Jan. 7, 2022. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's visit to Myanmar seeking to revive peace efforts after last year's military takeover has provoked an angry backlash among critics, who say he is legitimizing the army's seizure of power. (An Khoun SamAun/National Television of Cambodia via AP)
 
 

Print Headline: Cambodian premier draws flak over visit to Burma

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