PHNOM PENH (REUTERS) - Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday (Feb 3) that a non-political representative from Myanmar had been invited to attend a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers later this month rather than the country’s military-appointed foreign minister.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had not reached a consensus on inviting Myanmar’s foreign minister amid a lack of progress in an Asean peace plan, said Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry.
Cambodia is the current chair of the 10-member bloc and is due to host the ministerial meeting on Feb 16 and 17.
“Meanwhile, we encourage Myanmar to be represented at the retreat by a non-political level rather than leaving the seat empty,” Chum Sounry told Reuters, adding it was up to Myanmar to decide who the representative should be.
Myanmar has been in crisis since the military overthrew an elected government a year ago, with around 1,500 civilians killed in the junta’s crackdown on its opponents, according to figures cited by the United Nations human rights office.
Troops in the countryside are also fighting on multiple fronts with pro-democracy groups that have taken up arms 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 honour 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 neighbours 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.