Myanmar's military leader meets Hun Sen in anger

BANGKOK (AP), -- The visit of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen to Myanmar to seek peace after last year's military coup has provoked anger from critics who claim he is legitimizing army's takeover of power.

Myanmar's military leader meets Hun Sen in anger

Hun Sen was the first head of government since February's military coup to visit Myanmar. The authoritarian leader of Cambodia has been in power for 36 years. He also keeps tight control on domestic political activity.

As the current Chairperson of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations he met Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. He was responsible for the ousting of Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government, which plunged Myanmar into violence and economic ruin.

Popular News Journal posted photos of the pair in face masks and bumping forearms. They were seated on elegant gilt chairs, facing an elaborate golden screen.

As protests and rallies against Hun Sen's visit were being held in parts of Myanmar, demonstrations were also held.

Protesters set fire to portraits of the Cambodian prime Minister and shouted, "Torch Inhumane Hun Sen. People who engage in Min Aung Hlaing's politics should die terrible deaths." Videos of the demonstration posted online.

ASEAN leaders, Min Aung Hlaing included, created a five-point roadmap to a peaceful resolution of the Myanmar crisis. It included an end to violence, and a political dialogue among all parties.

After Suu Kyi's special envoy was blocked from meeting with Suu Cyi and other political prisoners, the Myanmar leader was banned from ASEAN meetings in October. This was one of the conditions of the agreement.

Hun Sen stated Wednesday that he did not have any preconditions regarding his visit to Cambodia.

He stated that he would only bring five points to the talks, which were consensus points agreed upon by all ASEAN member countries.

Myanmar's military said that Hun Sen would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi. He was convicted of incitement, violating coronavirus restrictions, and sentenced to four year imprisonment -- Min Aung Hlaing later reduced this sentence by half.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party was prevented from gaining a second term by the army's overthrow. It won a huge victory in the November 2020 national elections and independent observers didn't find any significant irregularities.

Min Aung Hlaing's decision ended 10 years of democratic progress as the army lost its grip on power, after decades of military rule.

The history of the Myanmar military is one of bloodshed. This includes a campaign against the Rohingya Muslim minority. The military's takeover of power sparked nationwide peaceful protests that were quelled by security forces with deadly force.

Recent actions by the military include violent suppression of any dissent, disappearances and torture, as well as extra-judicial killings. It has also launched ground and air strikes against ethnic armed rebels.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, security forces have killed approximately 1,443 civilians. The crackdown on civilians has been getting more severe. Armed resistance has grown in the country.

International criticism was levelled at Hun Sen's visit.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's deputy Asia director, stated that Min Aung Hlaing's decision to meet with him was "an affront for the people of Myanmar which strongly oppose the visit."

He said that Min Aung Hlaing's visit was a "slap in their faces" to the ASEAN member countries, even though they had limited Min Aung Hlaing’s participation in the regional group of 10 nations.

Hun Sen was accompanied at the time by Prak Sokhonn (Deputy Prime Minister), who is currently ASEAN special envoy and other top Cambodian leaders.

Hun Sen, who has resisted the opposition in Cambodia by incarcerating or exiling them, may hope that his visit will help to restore his international reputation.

Hun Sen was urged to leave by the National Unity Government, an underground opposition group in Myanmar and parallel government.

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

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