January 14, 2022
PHNOM PENH – The UN and ASEAN special envoys to Myanmar, and the Southeast Asian bloc’s chair have all pledged to work together on the emergency de-escalation of violence in the crisis-stricken nation and for the provision of humanitarian aid to its people.
The pledge was made during a virtual meeting between Prime Minister Hun Sen and UN special envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer on January 13 to discuss the outcomes of the premier’s recent trip to Myanmar and what needs to be done to make further progress there.
According to Hun Sen’s Facebook post after the meeting, Heyzer expressed her “satisfaction” with the prime minister’s initiatives on Myanmar thus far including his decision to visit the country. She said Hun Sen has an important role to play as head of government for this year’s ASEAN chair and that she will work together with him on behalf of the UN to bring Myanmar out of a state of crisis.
Hun Sen explained to Heyzer that ASEAN did not operate very smoothly in 2021 on this issue and while Cambodia is ASEAN chair, he is determined to find a way to halt the violence and maintain the “ceasefire” in Myanmar while pursuing the bloc’s five-point consensus and bringing in humanitarian assistance.
“Hun Sen stressed that we cannot stand by passively while Myanmar falls apart and that we must find a way to resolve the stand-off between the opposing sides there and take advantage of all opportunities to pursue negotiations,” said the post.
“Heyzer said she was committed to working with ASEAN and the bloc’s chair to do everything possible to keep the situation in Myanmar from deteriorating further,” added the post.
Hun Sen requested that Heyzer work with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn in his role as ASEAN special envoy on Myanmar, which she agreed to do.
Heyzer also issued a press statement following the meeting with Hun Sen, urging immediate action based on strengthened UN-ASEAN cooperation to prevent further deterioration of the situation in Myanmar and address the desperate needs of its people.
Last week, General Ming Aung Hlaing – Myanmar military chief and chairman of the ruling State Administration Council (SAC) – declared a unilateral ceasefire through 2022, but Heyzer expressed deep concern about apparent continued intensification of military operations despite that, including aerial bombardments on parts of the country.
With regard to aid, she said the UN-ASEAN “humanitarian plus” umbrella could coordinate and deliver assistance to affected communities through all existing channels and address the multiple priority needs of the people across the country.
“This would include civilian protection as well as food security, socio-economic resilience, humanitarian and Covid assistance. The special envoy welcomed [Hun Sen’s] invitation to co-facilitate such efforts,” the press statement said.
Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said a concerted effort between Heyzer and Cambodia in its role as ASEAN chair was a good approach as the problem should be dealt with through multilateral mechanisms.
“Cambodia is a small country with a big heart. We are a country that loves peace after having gone through many years of war.
“Therefore, Cambodia understands well the issues in Myanmar and achieving peace there will require more participation from the international community in providing humanitarian assistance and pursuing other means to stop the fighting and pave the way for the special envoys to meet for peace talks,” he said.
Although a complete solution for Myanmar’s crisis may not be achieved during Cambodia’s tenure as the ASEAN chair, Mengdavid said Cambodia would still be credited as the initiator of the efforts to heal that nation should a peaceful resolution be found.