Myanmar must show sincerity to engage

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Well intentioned as he may have been in deciding to be the first foreign leader to visit Myanmar since last February’s military coup that ousted the democratically elected government, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen may have underestimated the difficulty in prodding the military junta to adopt a more accommodating stance towards Myanmar’s citizens who want democratic rule reinstated. While he got a red carpet welcome, and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing received him wearing civilian clothes – clearly meant to stress his self-appointed role of “prime minister” – the visit may have yielded little for anyone except the junta. Violence between troops and civilians continues unabated.

By reaching out to the generals who have reneged on the five-point consensus that was reached with Asean last April, Mr Hun Sen, whose country is the grouping’s current chair, took a significant risk. Several Asean members are dismayed by his action, and some chose to express it by deciding to shun the meeting of Asean foreign ministers that was scheduled to take place this week in Siem Reap. This led Cambodia to postpone the gathering. The official explanation was that some ministers had difficulty travelling to Cambodia. Since so many Asean meetings have been held by videoconference, including the last summit, that this was not considered as an alternative says much.

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