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Cambodia: PM Hun Sen should cancel Myanmar trip, avoid ‘empty gestures’

As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen prepares to visit Myanmar on 7-8 January, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research Emerlynne Gil called on him to prioritise human rights action over empty gestures: 

“Hun Sen’s rogue diplomacy may do more harm than good by breaking ranks with ASEAN’s response to the Myanmar crisis and sending mixed messages to Myanmar’s coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing, who has been blocked from recent high-level ASEAN meetings in a rare rebuke.” 

“If Hun Sen truly wants to help, he should cancel this trip and lead ASEAN to strong action to address the country’s dire human rights situation rather than indulge in empty gestures that will likely result in little more than a self-congratulatory photo op.” 

“As the incoming chair of ASEAN, Cambodia should help revive the five-point consensus adopted in April last year that called for an immediate end to violence and work to expand it further to protect human rights and ensure accountability for abuses.”  

If Hun Sen truly wants to help, he should cancel this trip and lead ASEAN to strong action to address the country’s dire human rights situation rather than indulge in empty gestures that will likely result in little more than a self-congratulatory photo op.

Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International's Deputy Regional Director for Research

“The nightmare has continued for the 55 million people of Myanmar. Last month security forces were accused of killing and burning more than 30 civilians, including two staff members of the humanitarian aid organization, Save the Children, in eastern Karenni State.”  

“The international community cannot rely on ASEAN alone when it has repeatedly demonstrated that it is unable to take meaningful action to prevent such atrocities from recurring. The UN Security Council must urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and impose targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo.” 

Background 

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is set to visit Myanmar on 7-8 January, the first head of government to make an official visit to the country since the military seized power in a coup on 1 February 2021.  

The trip comes as Cambodia takes over as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which rotates each year to one of the bloc’s 10 members. Cambodia was last chair in 2012. 

ASEAN’s five-point consensus, adopted in April 2021, calls for an immediate end to violence, dialogue among all parties, aid access, the appointment of a special envoy from the bloc, and a visit by an ASEAN delegation. However, it fails to mention the need to protect human rights or call for accountability for violations. There has been little progress on the consensus, which was limited in scope even then.  

Since seizing power, Myanmar’s military has killed more than 1,400 people and arrested or detained more than 10,000, many of them peaceful protesters. It has also unfairly tried many of Myanmar’s top civilian leaders who were ousted in the coup and sentenced them to lengthy prison sentences. Former de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in December in one of many bogus cases against her.