Prime Minister Hun Sen emerged from a meeting with visiting Burmese President Htin Kyaw on Saturday declaring he did not support the “internationalization” of Burma’s escalating Rohingya crisis, going against mounting global fears of an impending genocide.
“[Cambodia] disagrees with the attempt to internationalize the Rohingya issue, considering it is an internal issue of Myanmar, and the Asean Charter prohibits the inference in the internal affairs of each member state,” said Mr. Hun Sen, as quoted by Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith on Facebook, using another name for Burma.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority from Burma’s northern Rakhine state, where they suffer widespread persecution by the country’s Buddhist majority. According to a report released by the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner last week, military operations have killed hundreds and internally displaced an estimated 22,000 people since October. Another 66,000 are believed to have fled to Bangladesh.
“The attacks against the Rohingya population…seems to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity,” the report says.
Sok Eysan, a spokesman for the CPP, reiterated that Cambodia and Burma were bound by Asean’s non-interference policy.
“The Rohingya issue is an internal affair of Myanmar…. We are not interfering in the internal affairs of countries that are members of Asean,” he said.
Mr. Eysan said the situation was different from Cambodia’s 2013 request for international intervention over a temple dispute with Thailand in Preah Vihear province.
“No one pushed Cambodia to resolve the issue internationally—Cambodia itself [took] the lawsuit to the International Court, and other [Asean] members were silent,” he said.
Political analyst Meas Ny said the government’s hard line against internationalization should not be surprising.
And given Cambodia’s relatively low GDP regionally, the government is quick to curry favor with those perceived to be more powerful, Mr. Ny added.
Soewin Sabiramad, a Rohingya refugee living in Cambodia, said that while the international community stalled, his family in Burma suffered.
“I called my mother a week ago—she cannot do anything; she does not go outside,” Mr. Soewin said, adding that his brother and two sisters were also languishing in poverty and living in fear.