Myanmar’s U Chan Aye to attend ASEAN retreat

Myanmar will send U Chan Aye, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to attend the upcoming ASEAN ministerial retreat in Phnom Penh, according to an informed source in Phnom Penh.

The source said that the State Administrative Council has informed the ASEAN chair, Cambodia, that U Chan Aye, a non-political senior official, will attend the retreat in person. The meeting will be held in Phnom Penh on 16th and 17th February, using a hybrid format.

U Chan Aye has represented Myanmar at all senior official meetings throughout the past year and is no stranger to ASEAN colleagues. For the time being, only the Philippines and Brunei have not confirmed their participation in person, according to the source.

The retreat will discuss several key issues related to Myanmar’s crisis, especially the current armed conflict on the ground, planned humanitarian aid and future political dialogue.

In a related development, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob will make an official visit to Cambodia on 24th and 25th February. The trip comes as a surprise to diplomats in the region. Only recently, Malaysia was the most vocal of the ASEAN members in criticising the ASEAN chair for his endeavours to tackle the Myanmar crisis.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Mohammad Saifuddin criticised Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Naypyidaw early last month, alleging that it had divided ASEAN and was prior to any group consultation.

In response, Hun Sen chided Saifuddin as “arrogant” and “impolite” for his comments. The brawl was quickly settled when the leaders of Cambodia and Malaysia talked by phone recently about the affair. During the call, Hun Sen invited his Malaysian colleague to visit Phnom Penh. The latter accepted without condition.

An ASEAN diplomat said that the visit was a quick decision, aimed at crisis-management and to smooth Cambodia-Malaysia relations. “The stakes are high for both countries, so their relations must not deteriorate,” the diplomat stressed.

Malaysia is one of the top Foreign direct investors and trading partners in Cambodia. Malaysia’s major exports to Cambodia are refined Petroleum, Pile Fabric, and malt extract, while Cambodia’s major export to Malaysia are rubbers, textiles and electronics goods.


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