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PM: War won’t end Ukraine row

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Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks from his office in January. SPM

PM: War won’t end Ukraine row

Prime Minister Hun Sen has weighed in on the Russia-Ukraine issue, echoing his long-held belief that it is only through peaceful negotiation, and not another war, that any disagreements between belligerent parties can be resolved.

Hun Sen made the observation as he noted that despite fierce fighting between troops of the two countries in recent days, the Russian military has not made decisive advances, given that they had killed fewer than 1,000 Ukrainians.

Although Russian troops had already entered a number of Ukrainian cities – which include major population centres Mariupol, Kharkiv and the capital Kyiv – he questioned how long it would take Russia to win the war or end it through other means.

He reiterated a point he acknowledged he has “raised many times already” when it comes to conflict: that the solution to war is not more of it.

“In my view, the troops of Russia may not be able to topple Ukraine through the use of military force. Similarly, Ukrainian troops cannot destroy the Russian military. This means that war cannot be used to end the war,” he said in a Facebook post on February 27.

“There is only one way out, and that is peaceful negotiation,” he stressed.

Ukrainians will not stand by to see their country being attacked by military offensive or their president being arrested or killed, Hun Sen opined, referring to steadfast leader Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has been seen as a symbol of resistance since Russia’s “military action” began.

“Will they stand still [and do] nothing? The people of Ukraine [could] rise up to fight back for their country. Look at countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya. Have they ended the war there? Have they achieved peace?” he asked.

The premier was of the view that Russia will be “trapped” in Ukraine if it decides to station troops there for an extended period after intense fighting. He likened the situation to the former soviet state’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s – which was subsequently followed by protracted US and NATO presence in the early 2000s.

Hun Sen urged both countries to hold peaceful negotiations, saying that it was in their mutual interests, and to end the wars, thereby achieving “real” peace.

“The place and time should not be an obstacle for negotiation because war will cause suffering to people who are fleeing and taking shelter,” he said, urging a diplomatic solution.

Hun Sen then recalled Cambodia’s own experiences and lessons learned from war, saying that the Kingdom’s peace and the happiness of its people were won through peaceful negotiation – referring to his “win-win” policy of Khmer Rouge soldier reintegration – without which “Cambodia would possibly still remain in a state of war,” he speculated.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said he believed that the armed conflict will not end in a decisive result any time soon. It is not a war between just the two countries, but rather a proxy war between the West and Russia, he said, highlighting the fact that Western nations had sent military equipment and weapons in support of the Ukrainian military.

“We can say that the ‘win’ or ‘lose’ of the war is hard to [determine]. If Russia wins, it cannot control Ukraine’s people. Ukraine has a population of around 30 million and they are defending their territory, not giving up, regardless of whether they have to be separated from their [family],” Phea said. “They cannot live without their own country.”

Phea echoed Hun Sen’s views on the need to conduct peaceful negotiations which can ensure a long-lasting peace. He said the current situation could lead to a confrontation between the West – together with NATO – and Russia, and warned that it may lead to global instability.

“We saw that on February 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced to the Russian [defence minister] to prepare the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. This pushes the current situation to another level of severity. Some countries like Belarus are also requesting to have nuclear weapons of their own,” he said.

Phea also pointed out that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has announced his intention to let the US station their nuclear weapons in Japan.

“This is potentially causing the nuclear weapons race to start again,” he said, noting that this is something that had last happened in the Cold War era.

Media reports citing the Ukraine’s defence ministry reported that 352 Ukrainian civilians have been killed so far, including 14 children. They said 1,684 civilians had been wounded, 116 of them children.

The UN was expected to hold an emergency session on February 28 to discuss the Russian military offensive in Ukraine.

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