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Cambodian strongman to visit Myanmar for talks with junta

Cambodian strongman Hun Sen will travel to Myanmar for talks in January, his spokesman said Tuesday, becoming the first international leader to visit the country since the military seized power in a coup. Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the generals ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February. Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia with an iron grip for over three decades, on Monday pledged to “work with” the Myanmar junta, despite widespread international efforts to pile diplomatic pressure on the military. Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin held talks with Hun Sen in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, where he formally extended the invitation. Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for the Cambodian prime minister, said the visit is scheduled for January 7 and 8. The invitation comes as Cambodia attempts to bring Myanmar back into the fold of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) after a humiliating snub by the regional bloc. In an unprecedented move for a group often criticised for its toothlessness, ASEAN barred junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from its October summit after it refused to let the bloc’s envoy meet Suu Kyi. Cambodia takes over ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship next year and on Monday, Hun Sen said the Myanmar leader had the right to attend summits. The junta — which calls itself the State Administration Council — has been an international pariah this year, with more than 1,300 people killed and thousands arrested in a brutal crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitor. On Monday, Suu Kyi was sentenced to two years’ detention for incitement against the military and breaching coronavirus rules, drawing fresh condemnation from around the world. But diplomatic pressure has shown no sign of knocking the military regime off course. The junta has justified the coup by alleging electoral fraud in last year’s poll, and Suu Kyi faces a raft of further charges that could see her jailed for decades if convicted.


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