As Myanmar approaches the anniversary of the Feb 1 military coup that overthrew the elected government, it is clear that there is no easy end in sight for the distress in that nation. Indeed, the violence seems to be escalating, with reports of a Christmas-eve massacre of civilians in eastern Myanmar, and, according to the BBC, an earlier one in central Myanmar. Given the tight ban the junta has placed on independent reporting, these are presumably not the only instances of harsh action by a beleaguered armed forces who have had to face the vehemence of public anger directed at them. More than 1,300 people have now reportedly died in Myanmar's year of convulsions.
With Senior General Min Aung Hlaing showing no signs of bowing to domestic or international pressure, and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi detained in an undisclosed location and facing a lengthening time in prison after fresh convictions, the only way for external parties to have authorised access to the country is through the military. This is what Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, the current Asean chair, attempted to do with his recent two-day trip. Indeed, by being the first head of government to visit Myanmar since the coup, he has risked standing against several of his peers in the 10-member grouping in trying to adopt an independent diplomatic tack with the junta. It remains to be seen how successful his efforts have been, but most accounts suggest that Gen Min Aung Hlaing has conceded little.