Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday evening that the European Union is interfering in Burma’s internal affairs by repeatedly pushing for the release of detained democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Addressing diplomats and government officials at a Phnom Penh conference on globalization and regional integration, Hun Sen said the EU should understand that Burma is facing difficult times as it moves towards democracy.
“The EU is demanding the release of this person or that person …but they should be understanding about Myanmar’s situation,” he said, though he did not name Suu Kyi directly. “It is their internal affair,” Hun Sen said of Burmese officials, according to a recording of his comments.
Burma is officially known as Myanmar.
Burma’s military junta does not want to control the country forever, Hun Sen said, adding that its constitution will soon be finished.
“Understand Myanmar’s situation. It bears no fruit—you cry unaware of the problem,” he said, referring to EU officials.
“Differences exist even in eating—you eat bread and we eat prahoc,” he said. “You cannot expect others to do like you do.”
Hun Sen said that he empathizes with the difficulty Burma is having with the international community and recalled when Cambodia was blocked from joining Asean in the late 1990s.
“I went to Hanoi for an Asean meeting, but I was not allowed [to join],” he said, adding that the reasons Asean gave for blocking Cambodia—which included the factional fighting of July 1997—were not Asean’s real motivation.
“The true reason was that Cambodia had not tried the Khmer Rouge cabinet,” he claimed.
Hun Sen returned from a three-day visit to Burma on May 24, where he discussed democracy and tourism with Burmese Acting Prime Minister Lieutenant General Thein Sein.
Aung San Suu Kyi was unanimously elected Burma’s leader in 1990, but the military never allowed her to take power and has placed her under detention for most of the past 17 years.
On May 25, the Burmese junta imposed another year of house arrest on Suu Kyi, leader of the country’s main opposition National League for Democracy.
German Ambassador to Cambodia Pius Fischer declined to comment on Hun Sen’s speech, but noted that it is one of Asean’s principles not to interfere in the political affairs of its members.
Fischer also said that he has little hope for serious democratic reforms in Burma.
“We think that all attempts so far to persuade Myanmar [have] not yielded any results,” he said. “Because of the history regarding Suu Kyi’s house arrest, I am not overly optimistic that they will be moving forward.”
However, Fischer praised Cambodia for creating a Cambodian-Myanmar Caucus at the National Assembly in 2006.
“It was an important and positive move,” he said.
A spokesman for the British Embassy also declined to comment on Hun Sen’s remarks, but added: “The British government has repeatedly called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.”
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who heads the Cambodian-Myanmar Caucus, said Hun Sen should show support for the EU’s efforts to free Suu Kyi.
“International pressure always places an important role in finding peaceful solutions,” he said.