Hun Sen Calls on ASEM to Admit Burma

Prime Minister Hun Sen threw his support behind Burma’s ruling military junta Wednesday, saying Cambodia will not join the Asia-Eu­rope Meeting scheduled later this year if Europe continues to press for Burma’s exclusion.

Hun Sen accused the Eu­rope­an Union of “taking advantage” by allowing its 10 new member states to join this year’s ASEM, while urging that Burma be barred.

The informal talks between Asian and European countries, scheduled to take place in Hanoi in October, were supposed to in­clude Cambodia, Burma and Laos for the first time since the three countries joined Asean.

EU leaders, however, are seeking to block Burma’s entry in protest of the country’s de­plor­able human rights and democracy record.

“Cambodia must make a sacrifice,” Hun Sen said at a conference held by the Cambodian In­stitute for Cooperation and Peace.

If the three new Asean countries cannot enter the ASEM at the same time, “Cambodia will not join,” he said.

Hun Sen added: “Cambodia takes a step backward today. My opinion is that inviting Burma to sit together with us is better than leaving Burma alone…. We say ‘in­tegration, integration and globalization,’ but to leave one country in the corner is not fair.”

Laotian Ambassador Thouane Vorasarn echoed Hun Sen’s sentiments Wednesday, saying Laos, too, will boycott the meeting if Burma is not allowed to join.

“We are waiting for the three countries to join together,” Vora­sarn said by telephone. Partici­pation in the Asian-European summit is important because “we need Asean to be together to ne­gotiate with the European countries,” he added.

The rift between Asean and the EU has some observers speculating this year’s summit may be canceled. But the EU “will continue to try to find a way to arrive at a solution which respects the concerns of both sides,” said one local diplomat, who declined to be named.

The EU has no problem with Cambodia and Laos participating in the summit, the diplomat said. But “we have a policy that does not allow us to cooperate with Burma,” the diplomat added.

Though Hun Sen said Cam­bodia doesn’t support “any ac­tions that are violations of human rights,” he affirmed Cambodia’s solidarity with Burma’s dictatorship.

Hun Sen also defended the rights of small countries to act independently of larger nations, in a speech reminiscent of his de­fense of former Yugoslav presi­dent Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 after Milosevic’s fall from power.

At the time, Hun Sen had voiced support for Milosevic, saying small countries should stick together against world powers. Milosevic is on trial at The Hague, the Netherlands, for war crimes.


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