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Hun Sen Remains Silent on Myanmar Coup, Despite Endorsing Suu Kyi’s November Reelection


FILE PHOTO - Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is welcomed by Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 30, 2019. (REUTERS/Samrang Pring)

After calling the recent Myanmar election “free and fair”, the Cambodian government said it would not issue any statements or “interfere” in the coup staged by Myanmar's military in the early hours of Monday morning.

The Myanmar Armed Forces, also called the Tatmadaw, declared a one-year state of emergency Monday afternoon, hours after it arrested senior National League for Democracy (NLD) members, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup d’état comes months after the NLD won a general election in November, after which opposition parties aligned to the Tatmadaw claimed widespread election fraud. The mass arrests came hours before a new session of parliament was scheduled to convene.

Prime Minister Hun Sen mentioned the coup d’état at a ceremony in Phnom Penh Monday morning. He said Cambodia would not make any comments about the developments in Myanmar, calling it Naypyidaw’s internal affair.

“For the time being, in Yangon [and Myanmar] it is happening. The President and the State Counsellor are arrested and detained,” Hun Sen said.

“But Cambodia shall not make any comments on the internal affairs of any countries regardless if they are within the framework of ASEAN as member states or outside,” he added.

The Cambodian Embassy in Yangon released a statement on November 11 calling the November 8 general election “free and fair” and reiterated its support for Myanmar’s democratic process.

A week later, Hun Sen sent a letter to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi congratulating her party’s ability to garner overwhelming support during the polls, which was a result of his domestic policies.

“I am confident that with the new mandate of the NLD, Myanmar will continue to further promote democratic values, paving the way for inclusive and durable peace, stability and prosperity in the country,” Hun Sen wrote in the November 18 letter.

Soldiers sit inside the City Hall compound in Yangon on February 2, 2021, a day after Myanmar's military seized power in a bloodless coup, detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposing a one-year state of emergency.
Soldiers sit inside the City Hall compound in Yangon on February 2, 2021, a day after Myanmar's military seized power in a bloodless coup, detaining democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and imposing a one-year state of emergency.

The Tatmadaw and military chief Min Aung Hlaing had said it was unlikely they would accept the results of the election, hinting at a takeover. They supported the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party’s claims that the national election was marred with election fraud of around 10 million suspect votes.

Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said Cambodia would maintain diplomatic relations with whoever was in charge of Myanmar.

“We don’t expect anything to change,” Phay Siphan told VOA Khmer. “Our Constitution provides a guiding principle that we shall not be in any capacity to interfere with anybody’s affairs.”

Phay Siphan dodged questions about Hun Sen’s endorsement of the November election, polls that are now being used by the Tatmadaw to legitimize their takeover on Monday.

“We at the time provided our assessment on the conduct of the general election, but the decision on any political arrangement [in Myanmar] shall be the sovereign decision-making right of that nation. We will not interfere,” Siphan said.

In Channy, the president of Acleda Bank in Cambodia said it was the “political stability” Myanmar had seen in the last decade that convinced the bank’s leadership to invest in the country.

Acleda has invested $20 million in Myanmar’s microfinance sector since 2013, he said.

“We look into that aspect [political stability] as a prerequisite whether to go there or any other country,” In Channy said. “And now this prerequisite has taken a hit in Myanmar.”

Cambodia’s decision not to “interfere” with Myanmar’s coup was in line with Thailand’s and Philippines’ responses, whereas countries with one-party rule, like Laos and Vietnam, remained silent.

Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines issued separate statements expressing their concerns over the coup event. The chair for ASEAN this year, Brunei Darussalam, issued a statement calling for a “return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”

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