Minister Reiterates Gov’t Stand As Burmese Premier Arrives

With Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein due to arrive in Phnom Penh today, Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong on Thurs­day reiterated the government’s po­si­­tion that it would not support sanc­tions against the Burmese junta as the situation is improving.

Hor Namhong’s remarks followed a meeting with UN special envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari, who flew into Phnom Penh Thurs­day for a two-day visit.

“We have agreed that the situation [in Burma] is improving as there have been two meetings between the government and [opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi,” Hor Namhong told reporters after the meeting.

Suu Kyi, who was democratically elected prime minister in 1990, has been kept under house arrest for most of the last 18 years.

The Burmese military’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in September provoked almost universal condemnation and there have been calls in the US and the EU for sanctions.

Hor Namhong said sanctions would not be constructive.

“I told [Ibrahim Gambari] we would not talk about sanctions…. From today on we should do the work to bring things forward and not have the situation go back,” he said.

Hor Namhong said the opposition in Burma should not “provoke problems, for example by holding demonstrations…for the sake of Burma and its people.”

He added that Cambodia would not be asking Thein Sein to release Suu Kyi’s supporters, many of whom have been in prison since the crackdown.

“The problem is not to free [the supporters]…. There must be a more comprehensive process, step by step,” Hor Namhong said, adding that Gambari will not meet with Thein Sein during this visit.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay, who chairs a special inter-party Burma-Cambodia caucus at the National Assembly, said he was disappointed by Hor Namhong’s comments, which he said marked a change in Cambodia’s position, noting that the government signed a joint UN/Asean statement condemning the junta’s crackdown.

“Cambodia is a democracy and should be supporting more strongly the democratization of Burma,” he said.

Speaking briefly at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs following Thurs­day’s meeting, Gambari said the discussion was “fruitful.”

      (Additional reporting by Fergal Quinn.)


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