June 29, 2022
PHNOM PENH – Cambodia called on Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC) to release former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from imprisonment in solitary confinement.
Prak Sokhonn – Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation who is also presently serving as the ASEAN chair’s special envoy on Myanmar – made the call after Suu Kyi was reportedly transferred last week from house arrest in Naypyidaw to what observers described as much harsher conditions in the solitary confinement wing of the capital’s prison.
Sokhonn urged all parties to the conflict in the crisis-hit country and especially the SAC to begin negotiating towards a peaceful resolution and a national reconciliation without any further delay.
He emphasised that the talks must be inclusive and involve all factions currently involved in the conflict, according to the ministry’s June 27 press release.
Sokhonn and his ASEAN colleagues have expressed “deep concerns” over this latest move and urged the SAC to facilitate her return to the home where she was originally detained.
“I have no doubt that these same concerns resonate far beyond ASEAN, considering that Aung San Suu Kyi is highly regarded internationally and considered by many in Myanmar as having played a critical role in your country’s return to normalcy after its long period of isolation.
“It is imperative that she be involved in talks that lead to national reconciliation through peaceful political solutions,” Sokhonn wrote in a recent letter to SAC-appointed foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.
Sokhonn further encouraged the SAC to exercise “compassion” and enable the return of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate to her home on humanitarian grounds in light of her fragile health and overall well-being, as well as out of respect for the fair and judicious practice of the rule of law.
“We all share the view that a peaceful national reconciliation cannot be effectuated when one party to the conflict is taken out of the resolution equation,” he wrote.
“Therefore, all our ASEAN colleagues strongly encourage the [SAC] to begin an inclusive process of national reconciliation without further delay. A peaceful political resolution to a conflict, no matter how complex it is, must involve the sharing of political space by all those involved.”
Sokhonn said recently that he would visit Myanmar in July, making it his second trip there as the bloc’s special envoy.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, in his capacity as ASEAN chair, recently called on SAC leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to reconsider plans to execute members of opposition groups they had captured or arrested.
Hun Sen said the capital punishments are a cause of great concern among all ASEAN member states as well as the bloc’s outside partners. And if the executions were to actually be carried out, it would cause a widespread negative reaction and backlash from the international community.
He said that if the SAC begins executing political opponents, it will have a serious impact on the progress of efforts made by ASEAN and Cambodia as chair in supporting Myanmar’s return to full participation in the bloc, and that it would sabotage efforts to find a peaceful solution through dialogue as outlined in the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus (5PC) on the crisis there.
Malaysia-based The Star, citing SAC spokesman Zaw Min Tun, reported that Suu Kyi was moved on Wednesday to the main prison in Naypyidaw. The newspaper quoted Zaw Min Tun as saying that Suu Kyi was being “well-kept” there.
Yong Pov, a professor of political science at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that even though Suu Kyi has endured many years of house arrest in the past, this is the first time she has been placed in an actual prison rather than her home.
It is a cause for great concern among the international community, so it is therefore reasonable and just that Sokhonn advocates for her release, he said.
“To ease tensions, SAC leader Min Aung Hlaing should return Suu Kyi to house arrest,” he said.
In April, 2021, ASEAN agreed on the 5PC for addressing the Myanmar crisis, but Pov noted that the consensus has never been implemented accordingly by the SAC, although Cambodia as ASEAN chair has tried its utmost to get them to do this.
He said that Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar back in January was to prepare the grounds for a scenario where the enforcement of the 5PC would be possible and peace talks between all sides could begin.
“In my observation, Min Aung Hlaing seems to have a bad attitude about negotiations and he isn’t accepting any aspect of the five-point consensus as legitimate. He instead seems to be intent on staging provocations and making his nation’s problems even more severe,” he said.