Kingdom stands ready to assist Myanmar

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Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn. FOREIGN MINISTRY

Cambodia regrets the escalation of violence in Myanmar and is closely monitoring the situation while standing ready to join other ASEAN member states in helping the country return to normalcy.

The Kingdom’s stance was reaffirmed in a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on March 9.

“As a friend and a member of the ASEAN Community, Cambodia . . . is saddened by the ongoing escalation of violence that has caused loss of lives.

“While respecting the core principle of non-interference into internal affairs of member states, Cambodia . . . supports a peaceful solution to the current crisis in Myanmar.

“Cambodia . . . is ready to join other ASEAN member states to assist Myanmar on her path to normalcy in any role and in any format that are in line with ASEAN principles and that are agreeable to all,” said the statement.

The ministry’s press release followed two separate statements issued by the ASEAN Chair on February 1 and March 2.

The February 1 statement encouraged the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar. The second statement called on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence and for all sides to exercise utmost restraint as well as flexibility.

At least 54 people have been killed and over 1,700 others, including children, have been detained by the Myanmar government after protests erupted in response to Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest by the military on February 1, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Jean-Francois Tain, a geopolitical analyst, said ASEAN’s core principle was non-interference in the internal affairs of its members including non-interference between the ASEAN member states.

But he said Myanmar’s internal conflict is now so critical that it could lead to wider instability in Southeast Asia. If an actual civil war erupted in Myanmar it could spread, leading to declarations of secession by ethnic groups seeking to form their own states. This could eventually turn Myanmar into a shattered country like the former Yugoslavia.

“Therefore, whether Myanmar wants it or not, their [internal strife] becomes a concern of ASEAN as a whole. The purpose here is to prevent civil war in Myanmar. That is why ASEAN should try to intervene as quietly as possible in order to persuade the military to stop their crackdown and agree to negotiate with Aung San Suu Kyi to find a win-win solution in the national interests.

“Overall the goal must be to avoid having Myanmar fall into a prolonged internal conflict or the trap of a long-term deadlock,” he said.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said Cambodia has always adhered to the ASEAN principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN members and also adhered to the principle of consensus.

He said small countries like Cambodia – with its own troubled history of interventions by foreign powers – also want to uphold the principle of non-interference in their own internal affairs by other countries.

“Therefore, Cambodia is obligated to refrain from interference in the internal affairs of other countries to avoid that risk for itself in the future. We know that democracy and human rights are often cynically utilised as a pretext to justify interference in the internal affairs of other countries,” he said.

However, Phea stressed that the non-interference principle observed by ASEAN member states does not translate into support for violence. Rather, it calls for a peaceful solution and avoidance of any escalations of the conflict that can lead to declarations of secession in Myanmar.