Hun Sen welcomes Burma election results

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday personally congratulated Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein on his country’s recent and heavily criticized election and also met with Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, according to his assistant Eang Sophalleth.

The closed meetings came on the first day of a two-day gathering in Phnom Penh of leaders from Asean, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and Laos for the summits of three regional bodies that deal with economic cooperation.

During his brief meeting with the Burmese premier, Mr Hun Sen “congratulated the vote result” of the Nov 7 election, Mr Sophalleth said. Burma’s Thein Sein said “the election was held freely for the parties and voters and there was also monitoring from the UN as well as national and international organizations,” according to Mr Sophalleth.

However, human rights groups and Western governments have criticized the poll as unfair. In a Nov 8 statement, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the “voting was held in conditions that were insufficiently inclusive, participatory and transparent.”

Mr Hun Sen did not mention Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained until after the election, Mr Sophalleth said. He added that Mr Hun Sen also agreed to have “people in charge of tourism and aviation talk to start flights from Siem Reap to Bagan.”

During his meeting with the Lao premier, Mr Bouasone, Mr Hun Sen signed an agreement on “air transport service” between the two countries, Mr Sophalleth said. Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the deal concerned an increase in flights but said he did not know any details.

Also at that meeting, Mr Bouasone said 88 percent of the Lao-Cambodia border had been demarcated and that he and Mr Hun Sen agreed to speed up demarcation, according to Mr Sophalleth.

In speeches yesterday, the Lao premier and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung congratulated Burma on its recent election, echoing recent statements of regional leaders. In contrast, Thein Sein and Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan did not mention the poll in their speeches.

In an interview on the sidelines of the meetings, Mr Kanharith said there were no plans to renew the mandate of the UN human rights office in Phnom Penh after it expired at the beginning of the next year in January 2012. He also suggested the office might be better suited to Burma, also known as Myanmar.

“In the ten Asean countries, Cambodia is the only country that has this office,” Mr Kanharith said. “Cambodia now contributes a lot. We send out [peacekeeping] troops…to many countries. That’s why it’s time that we enjoy the same status as other Asean countries.”

“Maybe hopefully there you can help the Myanmar government to establish democracy,” he said.


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