Prime Minister Hun Sen on January 21 maintained that his recent Myanmar visit served “to plant trees, not to cut them down”, and blasted Malaysia’s top diplomat over “undiplomatic” comments concerning the trip.
The premier had held a 35-minute phone call with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on the Myanmar issue that morning, as noted by a post on his official Facebook page.
Myanmar has been embroiled in unrest since February 1, 2021, when the military dissolved the civilian-led administration over allegations of irregularities in the 2020 general elections.
The military then declared a one-year state of emergency, and formed the State Administrative Council as the principal ruling body, with Defence Services commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at its helm.
January 21’s was the second call between the two heads of government just in January – the first month of Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship – both of which involved the ongoing Myanmar conflicts.
According to the post, the prime minister likened critics of his trip to people who “may think they could get fruit from a tree that was planted just one or two days earlier”.
Hun Sen also chided Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah over recent comments that the premier had not consulted other ASEAN countries before his trip to Myanmar.
During the meeting with Jokowi, Hun Sen also requested Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi to relay his message to her Malaysian counterpart – Saifuddin’s remarks “were not right within the ASEAN framework”.
“Please do not allow [Saifuddin] to act with such insolence, making those kinds of inappropriate remarks to ASEAN leaders – the ASEAN chair, no less. This does not suit diplomatic language,” he said.
Hun Sen went on to say that, despite its two-day duration, the trip had directly and indirectly achieved some tangible results, listing “a halt to violence” and “an extended ceasefire”, among other initiatives as examples.
Jokowi acknowledged the merits of Hun Sen’s initiatives, but stressed that the concerted implementation of ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar remains a top priority, according to the post.
Both leaders vowed to push to find a solution to the Myanmar crisis at an upcoming ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting.