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WEDNESDAY, December 07, 2022
PM Lee urges Cambodia as Asean chair to engage with all parties on Myanmar

PM Lee urges Cambodia as Asean chair to engage with all parties on Myanmar

SUNDAY, January 16, 2022

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has stressed that the Asean chairman needs to engage with all parties concerned about the crisis in Myanmar.

He made the point after receiving a video call from his Cambodian counterpart, Mr Hun Sen, on Friday (Jan 14). Cambodia is the current Asean chair under the bloc’s rotating arrangement and Mr Hun Sen has just returned from a trip to Myanmar where he held talks with junta chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Mr Lee, who reaffirmed Singapore’s support for Cambodia’s Asean chairmanship and thanked Mr Hun Sen for the briefing on his recent trip, noted that “there had not been any significant progress” in the implementation of the Asean roadmap adopted in April on Myanmar. 

Until there was significant progress, Asean should stick to the decision by its leaders in October last year to only invite a “non-political representative” from Myanmar to its meetings, said PM Lee.

“Any discussion to revise the Asean Leaders’ decision had to be based on new facts,” Mr Lee was quoted as saying in a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) statement released on Saturday.

Since seizing power on Feb 1 last year, the Myanmar military has had to contend with increasing opposition, which has morphed into armed resistance in various parts of the country. Reports say the military, called the Tatmadaw in the local language, has responded with an iron fist to opponents with tactics that have included aerial bombardments. 

Asean’s roadmap for Myanmar known as the “Five-Point Consensus” calls for an immediate cessation of violence, the provision of humanitarian aid, constructive dialogue among all parties concerned which an Asean special envoy would help facilitate. 

But the junta has dragged its feet on key points of the road map. It has promised to hold fresh elections by August next year but has jailed thousands of its critics and political opponents, including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi whose National League for Democracy party won the last election by a landslide in 2020, less than three months before the coup.

Mr Hun Sen spoke to Indonesian President Joko Widodo prior to his visit last week to Myanmar but it is not clear to what extent he consulted with other Asean leaders about the trip.

The Cambodian premier did not ask to see Ms Suu Kyi during his visit. After his meeting with Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Cambodia’s foreign ministry issued a joint press release stating that the junta would extend the expiry date of its earlier declared ceasefire with ethnic armed organisations from next month to the end of this year. The statement made no mention of the numerous “people’s defence forces” waging an insurgency against the Tatmadaw.

Tan Hui Yee

The Straits Times