Cambodia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that a non-political representative from Myanmar has been invited to attend a conference of Southeast Asian foreign ministers later this month instead of the country’s military-appointed foreign minister.
According to Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have not achieved an agreement on hosting Myanmar’s foreign minister due to a lack of progress in an ASEAN peace plan. Cambodia, the 10-member bloc’s current chair, will host the ministerial meeting on February 16 and 17.
“Meanwhile, rather than keeping the seat unfilled, we encourage Myanmar to be represented at the retreat by a non-political level,” Chum Sounry told Reuters, adding that it was up to Myanmar to decide who the representative should be.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military deposed an elected government a year ago, with over 1,500 people dead in the junta’s assault on opponents, according to numbers given by the United Nations human rights office.
Troops in the countryside are also battling on many fronts with armed pro-democracy organizations and ethnic minority forces.
Cambodia said in a statement on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” over developments in Myanmar, including reports of continued violence and a deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
“ASEAN member states underline the urgency of the immediate cessation of violence and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint,” the statement said.
ASEAN last year sprung a surprise by barring the junta from key meetings over its failure to honor the ASEAN peace consensus.
But divisions over the issue have persisted and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen met military leader Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar on Jan 7, a trip that had some regional neighbors worried it could be construed as an endorsement of the junta.
As ASEAN chair Hun Sen has come under pressure to hold Min Aung Hlaing to the ASEAN peace agreement, some members have demanded ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who is on trial be freed and allowed to join a peace process.