Cambodia has been elected ASEAN’s new chair, a regional grouping that is spearheading diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s crisis.
Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister met with officials in Cambodia, the Southeast Asian country that has assumed leadership of the regional bloc tasked with resolving Naypyidaw’s political crisis.
Wunna Maung Lwin’s visit to Cambodia on Tuesday comes just one day after a Myanmar court sentenced deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to detention on politically motivated charges.
Global condemnation followed the sentencing.
The Cambodian government distributed photographs of Wunna Maung Lwin meeting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, with the men tapping their elbows in greeting prior to the meeting.
Cambodia will take over as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from Brunei in 2022.
The bloc’s members are divided over the bloc’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis, which began with the generals’ February 1 coup.
The bloc declined to invite Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing to its October annual summit due to a lack of consensus among members and concerns about Min Aung Hlaing’s failure to implement a peace plan agreed upon earlier in the year with bloc leaders.
Hun Sen and Wunna Maung Lwin discussed bilateral relations, ASEAN issues, and strategies for reestablishing positive relationships within the grouping, according to Eang Sophalleth, the prime minister’s assistant.
Hun Sen also accepted the foreign minister’s invitation to visit Myanmar on January 7-8, Eang Sophalleth said. Hun Sen would be the country’s first elected leader to visit since the coup.
On Monday, he suggested that the military be invited to ASEAN meetings.
According to analysts, Cambodia’s election to the ASEAN chairmanship means the bloc’s “already watered-down approach to Myanmar” will likely be diluted further in 2022.
According to a recent World Politics Review article by Joshua Kurlantzick, the senior fellow for Southeast Asia, Cambodia already has a reputation within ASEAN for blocking initiatives that many members support, including a joint position on the South China Sea dispute.
“Hun Sen also does not wish to facilitate a protracted period of isolation for a Southeast Asian authoritarian leader at a time when he is cracking down harder than at any point in recent decades on Cambodia’s political opposition and civil society,” he added. “And, because ASEAN is a consensus-based organization, the Cambodian leader will have the ability to veto any proposed Myanmar policies in 2022.”
Few countries have recognized Myanmar’s military, and the United Nations General Assembly postponed action on Monday on the generals’ request to join the global body. The credentials committee is unlikely to reconvene until late next year to consider the competing claims for representation.
The decision maintains the position of Kyaw Moe Tun, the ambassador from the deposed civilian government.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which sparked widespread protests and heightened international concern about the impending collapse of tentative political reforms following decades of military rule.
Despite international calls for dialogue and the release of detained civilian leaders, a Myanmar court found Aung San Suu Kyi guilty on Monday of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions following what critics called a “sham trial.”
Aung San Suu Kyi faces a two-year prison sentence at an undisclosed location, down from four years following a partial pardon from Myanmar’s military chief.
According to supporters of the deposed leader, the charges against her are baseless and are intended to ensnare her in legal proceedings while the military consolidates power.
In Myanmar, her conviction was widely anticipated.
Demonstrators in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, risked arrest to stage a flash protest immediately following the verdict, though no new demonstrations were reported on Tuesday.