Regional bloc’s chair sees ‘little progress’ on five-point consensus reached last April
An image of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi is projected on a screen during a nighttime demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon in March 2021. (Photo: AFP)
As chair of ASEAN in 2022, Cambodia says it will not invite Myanmar to the regional bloc’s annual foreign ministers’ retreat after the junta failed to make any real progress on implementing a five-point consensus agreed by members last April.
Chum Sounry, spokesperson for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said ASEAN could not agree on allowing Myanmar to send its foreign minister and instead Cambodia has suggested it send a non-political representative.
The ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting, or AMM Retreat, is held by the 10-member bloc each year to frankly and confidentially discuss issues confronting the region.
Myanmar was banned from attending ASEAN summits in Brunei following last February’s coup when the military ousted an elected government.
However, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has attempted to bring Myanmar back into the ASEAN fold since assuming the chair for 2022 despite strong criticism from within ASEAN, humans rights groups and others opposed to the junta’s rule.
The AMM Retreat is scheduled for Feb. 16-17 after it was postponed in January due to traveling difficulties experienced by ASEAN members. It was expected to be held in Siem Reap.
Hun Sen became the first foreign leader to visit Myanmar since the coup when he held talks with Min Aung Hlaing early last month
“Since there has been little progress in carrying out the ASEAN’s five-point consensus, the ASEAN member states did not reach a consensus to invite Myanmar SAC’s foreign minister to participate in the upcoming AMM Retreat to be hosted by Cambodia,” Chum Sounry said.
“Meanwhile, we encourage Myanmar to be represented at the retreat by a non-political level rather than leaving the seat empty. It is up to Myanmar to decide who that [non-political level] would be,” he told the government-friendly Fresh News service.
ASEAN reached the five-point consensus with junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing in Jakarta in April 2021, calling for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, constructive dialogue and a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.
Hun Sen became the first foreign leader to visit Myanmar since the coup when he held talks with Min Aung Hlaing early last month, putting the war-torn country at the top of his agenda for ASEAN this year.
However, violations of the consensus continued with the reported massacre of 10 ethnic Chin villagers, prompting more than 1,000 people to flee across the border into India, besides reports of airstrikes in Loikaw, capital of Karen state, displacing about 40,000 civilians.
Human rights groups claim Hun Sen — himself an authoritarian leader of a one-party state — was simply trying to legitimize the military regime blamed for the deaths of more than 1,400 people over the last year.