Can the Cambodian leader’s efforts yield results?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 07 Scenes
MoeMaKa, May 08, 2024

Can the Cambodian leader’s efforts yield results?

Cambodia’s former Prime Minister and current president of the Senate, Hun Sen, announced on his social media page that he had an online meeting with the leader of Myanmar’s Military Council on May 7. He requested to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the chairperson of the NLD Party and former State Counselor.

Over a year ago, Cambodia’s attempts to persuade the military council to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis were unsuccessful when it took over the role of rotating chair of ASEAN. Although the problem has not been resolved after 3 years, Hun Sen is making another attempt. He also said that Cambodia will send a representative to Myanmar soon, and if he has the opportunity to have a conversation, they will talk online. Hun Sen revealed that the military leader Min Aung Hlaing replied that he would consider his request.

In Southeast Asia, Hun Sen is well known for using his power to block opposition parties from participating in elections and taking action against them. However, Hun Sen is not seen as a dictatorial leader like Myanmar’s military dictators who commit serious human rights violations and war crimes. He is not under international sanctions and restrictions like Myanmar’s military leaders.

Although his son is in charge as the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen is understood by many to be the leader behind the scenes and is now trying to intervene in Myanmar’s affairs again. It is not clear whether this effort is coordinated with ASEAN or is an effort of his own.

In mid-2023, Thailand tried a similar attempt. It was announced on July 9 that the Thai foreign minister visited Myanmar and met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in person. Since the military coup in 2021, the military council had not allowed any international diplomats to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and the Thai foreign minister was the first one allowed to meet with her. The meeting appeared to enhance Thailand’s influence, but no progress was made based on it.

Questions arose about what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said and how she would like to solve the problems. However, the Thai foreign minister only expressed her support for discussions on Myanmar’s issues and her concern about the losses of the Myanmar people and the country’s economy in her speech at the ASEAN meeting.

Until 10 months after that meeting, there were no further developments related to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s attitude or comments, but the war fronts across the country widened, and ethnic armed groups controlled more territories.

Given this situation, it is certain that ethnic armed groups are more eager to gain military advantage than engage in political dialogue. This means that even if Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has the most public support, is released from prison, it will be very difficult to mobilize ethnic armed organizations.

Therefore, even if Cambodian leader Hun Sen had the opportunity to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it would not be easy to have a major influence on the current situation in Myanmar.

It would not be wrong to say that ethnic armed groups are more interested in military victory on the ground than political hopes for the emergence of a federal democratic union.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is important in the Myanmar issue, but in a time when the military comes first over politics, her role is already limited. Hun Sen’s efforts are interesting, but it must be said that it is no longer time to wait for the outcome to solve the Myanmar crisis.

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