The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has expressed serious concerns over the intense clashes in Loikaw – the capital of Myanmar’s Kayah State – between the military and armed opposition forces including the state’s largest ethnic minority militia.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said the ongoing violence is jeopardising the progress achieved during the recent visit to Myanmar by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

During his visit to Myanmar, Hun Sen spoke of the success of Cambodia’s win-win policy that eventually brought about national reconciliation, comprehensive peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Citing the experiences and lessons learned from Cambodia’s peace process, Sounry said that a comprehensive peace and national reconciliation cannot be achieved in Myanmar without the full participation and an agreement to negotiate from all parties involved.

“In this spirit, we are of the view that all parties concerned must accept the ceasefire and end all acts of violence while exercising the utmost restraint in order to start a dialogue that will establish favourable conditions leading to the reestablishment of peace in the country,” Sounry said.

The clashes in Loikaw came as Cambodia and other ASEAN member states as well as the UN special envoy on Myanmar seek to bring about a compromise.

Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn and his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai discussed the Myanmar issue and other topics of common concerns in a phone conversation on January 19. Both sides agreed that the crisis could not be resolved immediately and that a solution to the conflict must be led by Myanmar itself.

“We concurred that there is no quick-fix for the Myanmar crisis and without a doubt the process must be Myanmar-led. Within the ASEAN family we stand ready to offer support. As ASEAN chair, Cambodia will continue to work on this matter,” Sokhonn said in a Facebook post after the meeting.

He added that as ASEAN chair, Cambodia will continue to approach this task in a spirit of good will while striving to ensure that ASEAN keeps moving forward. He thanked Don for his government’s understanding and encouragement while Cambodia shoulders this burden during its year as chair.

Don earlier met with UN special envoy on Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer on January 14.

The two sides expressed their concerns about the violence that continues in Myanmar, including the recent clashes near the Thai-Myanmar border that have been taking place since mid-December of 2021 and have led to civilians from Myanmar fleeing into Thailand to escape the fighting.

In a press release, the Thai foreign ministry said that both sides stressed the importance of finding a solution to this crisis that returns Myanmar to a state of peace, stability and normalcy.

Don reiterated Thailand’s readiness to engage and cooperate constructively within the mechanisms of the UN and ASEAN for finding peaceful solutions to the situation in Myanmar, especially in pushing forward progress in the implementation of ASEAN’s five-point consensus.

According to the press release, Don also expressed support for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Myanmar initiatives undertaken as leader of Cambodia in its role as ASEAN chair.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, told The Post on January 20 that in order to resolve any issue, especially the political issue in Myanmar, it takes time and a clear understanding of the causes of the problem and the demands being made by each side of the conflict.

Mengdavid said that as a member and the rotating chair of ASEAN, Cambodia continued to do its best to make the mission a success but that the Kingdom would need some favourable conditions and some luck to pull it off.

The favourable conditions, according to Mengdavid, are the parties to the conflict showing a clear political will to participate in dialogue and negotiations, Cambodia’s involvement being welcomed by all of the parties concerned, and Cambodia must be trusted by all parties in order to ensure a win-win result to ensure constructive participation.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told The Post on January 20 that the Myanmar crisis is complex and would be difficult to solve in a short period of time.

He said Cambodia and other countries cannot effectively solve the problem without the participation of the relevant sides to the conflict in Myanmar and the support of the other ASEAN member states.

“In my view, Cambodia should focus more on providing humanitarian aid and reducing the violence there to enable Myanmar civilians to protect their lives from armed conflict between the military and those opposing them,” he said.

He said Cambodia should make any concession necessary to enable the provision of aid to vulnerable populations in Myanmar and forego more controversial moves like meeting with the ousted leader of Myanmar’s civilian government Aung San Suu Kyi until aid is secured for those in need.