Hun Sen: Lend the Junta No Legitimacy

January 14th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  13 minute read
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“Mr. Hun Sen, you are not welcome…and don’t further diminish or discredit the already diminished reputation of ASEAN and don’t let the Cambodian people down with your cowboy diplomacy.”

Khin Ohmar, founder and Chairperson of Progressive Voice

The end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 has seen no abatement in the military junta’s terror campaign against the people of Myanmar. December saw some of the worst atrocities since the attempted coup d’état was mounted on 1 February, 2021, including the Christmas Eve Massacre in Karenni State, the massacre of 11 people in Done Taw, Sagaing Region and the airstrikes on Lay Kay Kaw, Karen State. Amidst the military junta’s horrific acts of terror, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen still persisted on travelling on 7 January to Myanmar to meet with the junta leader Min Aung Hlaing without any preconditions, thereby handing legitimacy to a murderous tyrant and tacitly endorsing the junta to commit further atrocities. This is despite mass opposition to the trip from the peoples of Myanmar and Cambodia, and regional and international civil society organizations, through protests and statements. Simultaneously, the junta continues to illegally stifle freedom of information by levying extreme taxes on the purchase of sim cards and broadband internet. Yet, the junta has no legitimate authority to take such actions, which has been vested with the National Unity Government (NUG) by the people of Myanmar.

Across Myanmar, junta’s killings have continued to increase over the past few months, with little sign of slowing in the starts of 2022. On Christmas Eve, the junta’s troops tied up, savagely killed and burned the bodies of at least 35 people, including four children and two Save the Children staff in Hpruso Township, Karenni State. The timing of the Christmas Eve Massacre is no coincidence. The military junta has in the past chosen to terrorize predominantly Christian areas during the Christmas period. Among the outcries against these deplorable acts, 59 civil society organizations have called on the UN Security Council to impose a global arms embargo, refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and impose targeted sanctions on the junta, their businesses and their crony business partners. Additionally, 40 Karenni civil society organizations in another statement reiterated that “This unprovoked and heinous attack on civilians demonstrates that an unchecked Burmese military will only increase its targeting of civilians and escalate violence with no regard for human rights in Karenni state.” Save the Children also issued a statement saying, among other calls, that the UN Security Council “must convene as soon as possible to set out the steps they will take to hold those responsible to account.”

The Christmas Eve Massacre comes in the wake of a similar massacre on 7 December in Done Taw, Sagaing Region, where 11 villagers were abducted, beaten to the brink of death, then burned alive. Atrocities continue to mount in Sagaing Region, where last week helicopters indiscriminately fired rockets at villagers in Gahe township without warning, killing three children and two adults. In Matupi, Chin State, 11 civilians, including a 13-year-old boy and the editor-in-chief of Khonumthung Media Group, were arbitrarily detained, beaten and killed by junta thugs. Junta ground troops, 90 military trucks and armored vehicles and air reinforcements have been sent to Matupi, triggering 4,500 villagers to flee for safety. The military junta has also been conducting devastating airstrikes targeting civilians in Karen State in December as well, with at least 10,000 people fleeing their homes in Lay Kay Kaw and 4,200 crossing into Thailand – which are still continuing.

These acts are those of a desperate and power-hungry warmonger, searching for control over a population that has rejected him and his junta, who illegitimately tried to seize power from those elected in November 2020. Yet so far, the international community has not taken substantial actions to stop this terrorist junta’s killing spree in Myanmar, beyond issuing statements in relation to the abovementioned incidents. While targeted sanctions have been imposed against the military junta, which are welcomed, the international community must ratchet up the pressure on the junta.

While the junta continues its campaign of terror, it is also trying to tax the victims of its crimes. The junta does not have the legal authority to collect taxes, yet they are imposing a hike on the price of sim cards by 20,000 kyat and adding 15% tax on the income of internet service providers, up from 5%. This continues the junta’s tactics of using the internet and service providers for their own ends, including cutting the internet to stop the free flow of information, creating a barrier to accessing the internet and to mask their atrocities. One Kyaukse University Student Union representative believes “They don’t have any budget left, so they’re all out of options.”

Yet, amidst these ongoing egregious human rights violations, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen pushed ahead with a visit to Myanmar on 7 January, despite vehement calls from civil society and the Myanmar people at large to stay home and not lend the junta legitimacy. Protesters burned pictures of Hun Sen, while demonstrations against the visit took place across the country, including Mandalay, Depayin, Tanintharyi and Monywa. Civil society organizations in both Myanmar and Cambodia voiced staunch opposition through a joint statement condemning Hun Sen’s unilateral actions which ignore the will of Myanmar’s people and demanding the international community to initiate a coordinated response to the Myanmar crisis. Additionally, 261 Myanmar revolutionary organizations called on Hun Sen to ‘never set foot’ in Myanmar, as this visit would only help to conceal the junta’s crimes and allow them back into ASEAN’s good graces without any pre-conditions for the cessation of violence or other demands. Echoing these sentiments, Khin Ohmar, the founder and Chairperson of Progressive Voice (PV), said at a webinar held by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on 6 January, “Mr. Hun Sen, you are not welcome…and don’t further diminish or discredit the already diminished reputation of ASEAN and don’t let the Cambodian people down with your cowboy diplomacy.”

In response to Hun Sen’s trip, APHR and PV issued a statement calling for an end to Hun Sen’s ‘rogue diplomacy’ and endorsement of the military junta. While Hun Sen touts the Five Point Consensus which was devised at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in April 2021, none of the points within the consensus have been adhered to at any point since April or since his visit last week. In any event, to date the entire response to the Myanmar crisis by ASEAN has been a complete failure, having achieved nothing while the violent attacks escalate against the people of Myanmar by the junta across the country. In the days since Hun Sen’s visit, the junta has sentenced Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for a second time on trumped up charges, now totalling 6 years and the military has initiated airstrikes and offensives in Karenni and Karen States and Sagaing Region. So much for Hun Sen succeeding at picking the so-called ‘lowest-hanging fruit’ in the Myanmar crisis, that being the agreement by Min Aung Hlaing to a ceasefire which is non-existent. The broader international community, led by the UN, must intervene where ASEAN has failed as a matter of urgency.

All of this begs the question – are ASEAN’s dialogue partners, such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan, going to continue to back ASEAN’s repeated failures and allow Hun Sen  to bankrupt ASEAN’s reputation by aligning with this murderous junta? This sentiment was echoed in a statement by the APHR which called the situation a brazen and dangerous attempt by Hun Sen and Min Aung Hlaing to hijack ASEAN for their own craven purposes.

These actions should not be tolerated by the other members of ASEAN, especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, whose credibility have been undercut by the actions of Hun Sen. The UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council must check the actions of ASEAN, given they have chosen to defer the response on Myanmar to ASEAN and Cambodia, by-proxy, as ASEAN’s chair for 2022. The international community at large must increase the pressure on the junta to end atrocity crimes through arms embargoes, targeted sanctions on military leadership and their affiliated businesses and refer the situation of Myanmar to the ICC or exercise universal jurisdiction to hold the Myanmar military to account. This pressure must escalate until the junta ceases its terror campaign on the people of Myanmar and release all political detainees.

The people of Myanmar have strongly voiced their disapproval of Hun Sen’s cowboy diplomacy endorsing the junta and in no uncertain terms declared their support for the NUG and a genuine federal democratic Myanmar. Indicative of this were the New Year protesters around Myanmar who rang in the new year with cries of “Our Revolution Must Prevail”, seeing 2022 as the year to uproot the military junta once and for all. Popular revolutionary doctor, Dr. Tayzar San, said on Facebook “Our New Year’s commitment is nothing short of reaching a turning point, a vital historic milestone in our public revolution, in 2022.” The international community must take heed of the voices of Myanmar’s people, and not turn their backs on them in 2022.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Statement on the Massacre of Karenni People by Terrorist Military Junta

By 59 Civil Society Organizations

Joint Statement: 67 Karenni Community Organizations from Around the World Demand the Burmese Military Junta to be Held Accountable for the Massacre of the 40 Unarmed Civilians and other crimes

By 67 Karenni Community Organizations

Request to Designate “No-Fly Zone” nationwide in Myanmar

By 227 Students’ Unions in Myanmar

Cambodia: PM Hun Sen should cancel Myanmar trip, avoid ‘empty gestures’

By Amnesty International

Hun Sen’s rogue diplomacy is a threat to ASEAN and Myanmar

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Progressive Voice

Joint Statement by the Civil Society Organizations of Myanmar and Cambodia Condemning Hun Sen’s Support of the Myanmar Military Junta

By Civil Society Organizations of Myanmar and Cambodia

Statement by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw with regard to the visit of the Cambodian Prime Minister to Myanmar

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

ကရင်နီပြည်နယ်၊ ဖရူဆိုမြို့နယ်ရှိ အရပ်သားပြည်သူ (၃၅)ဦးကျော်အား စစ်ကောင်စီတပ်ဖွဲ့များက လူမဆန်စွာ မီးရှို့သတ်ဖြတ်ခြင်းနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Myanmar: Statement by High Representative Josep Borrell on the recent escalation of violence

By Delegation of the European Union to Djibouti and IGAD

Statement of ICJM on the reception of Charles Cardinal Bo to the Myanmar junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing on the occasion of Christmas visit

By Independent Catholics for Justice in Myanmar

India For Myanmar condemns the trip led by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla lending a legitimacy the terrorist Junta desperately needs

By India For Myanmar

Statement on high death toll of Chins within 11 months under Myanmar junta

By Institute of Chin Affairs

Statement of the 14th Karenni National Progressive Party’s Congress

By Karenni National Progressive Party

Statement on Burmese Military Junta’s Intensified Offensives in Karenni State

By Karenni National Progressive Party

Condemnation on the burning alive of over 35 innocent Karenni civilians by the SAC’s troops

By Karenni National Progressive Party

KNPLF ၏ သဘောထားကြေညာချက်

By Karenni National People’s Liberation Front

Condemnation and Statement on the event of Karenni Massacre by Military Council

By Karenni State Consultative Council

Urgent humanitarian aid and protection needed for over 10,000 villagers fleeing Burmese Military attacks in Lay Kay Kaw, Karen State, Burma

By Karen Peace Support Network

The Karen Women’s Organization Strongly Condemns Ongoing Violence & Brutality Being Perpetrated Against Women

By Karen Women’s Organization

The Karen Women’s Organization Expresses Horror at Harrowing Violence Perpetrated Against Innocent Civilians in Kayah State

By Karen Women’s Organization

Never Ever Let “Hun Sen” Set Foot in Myanmar

By Myanmar Revolution Forces

Announcement addressing the Christmas massacre in Karenni State

By National Unity Government

Statement on the Christmas Eve Massacre in Karenni State

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Statement from the Ministry of Justice on the Christmas Eve Massacre

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Justice)

Statement on the Actions against the Civilians committed by the Military Junta amounting to Crimes against Humanity

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

လူ့အခွင့်အရေးဆိုင်ရာဝန်ကြီးဌာနနှင့် ဆက်သွယ်ရေး၊ သတင်းအချက်အလက်နှင့် နည်းပညာဝန်ကြီးဌာနတို့၏ မိုဘိုင်းအင်တာနက်ဈေးနှုန်းများ တိုးမြှင့်ကောက်ခံမှုနှင့်ပတ်သက်သည့် ပူးတွဲထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Communications, Information and Technology)

တစ်နိုင်ငံလုံးပစ်ခတ်တိုက်ခိုက်မှုရပ်စဲရေးသဘောတူစာချုပ် လက်မှတ်ရေးထိုး ထားသော တိုင်းရင်းသားလက်နက်ကိုင်တော်လှန်ရေးအဖွဲ့အစည်းများ၏ ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးလုပ်ငန်းစဉ်ဦးဆောင်အဖွဲ့ (PPST) အစည်းအဝေး (၂၃/၂၀၂၂) ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Peace Process Steering Team

စစ်ကောင်စီရဲ့ ဘာသာရေးလှည့်ကွက်တွေအပေါ်မှာ မကျရောက်အောင် တိုင်းရင်းသားအားလုံးဘာသာ၊ လူမျိုးမခွဲဘဲပြည်ထောင်စုစိတ်ဓါတ်နဲ့ နေထိုင်ကြဖို့ သံဃသမဂ္ဂ (မန္တလေး) အသိပေး

By Sangha Union (Mandalay)

Joint Statement on Attacks on Civilians in Karen State

By The Ambassadors (Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden; New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States)

Security Council Press Statement on Situation in Myanmar

By United Nations

UNICEF condemns reported killing of at least 35 people, including four children and two humanitarian workers, in Kayah State, Myanmar

By United Nations Children’s Fund

Director-General condemns killing of journalist Sai Win Aung in Myanmar

By United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Security Council Press Statement on Situation in Myanmar

By United Nations Security Council

Burma Independence Day

By United States Department of State

On the Attacks in Kayah State and Throughout Burma

By United States Department of State



Crimes Committed by the Terrorist Junta in December

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Burma Coup Watch for Month of December 2021: Junta capitalizes on poor international resolve to step up savagery

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Burma Human Rights Network, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma and Women Peace Network

Chins killed by the Tatmadaw in 11 Months (February-December, 2021) – ၁၁လတာ ကာလအတွင်း တပ်မတော်မှသတ်ဖြတ်ခဲ့သည့် ချင်းလူမျိုးများ (ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ – ဒီဇင်ဘာ၊ ၂၀၂၁)

By Institute of Chin Affairs

Bi-weekly situation update by the Karenni Civil Society Network, Dec 20, 2021–Jan 2, 2022 – Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township

By Karenni Civil Society Network

၂၀၂၁ခုနှစ် ကရင်နီပြည်နယ်အတွင်း စစ်​​ကောင်စီမှ ကျူးလွန်ခဲ့​သော လူ့အခွင့်အ​ရေးချိုး​ဖောက်မှုဆိုင်ရာအချက်အလက်နှင့် စစ်​ဘေး​ရှောင် အ​ခြေအ​နေ အနှစ်ချုပ်

By Karenni Human Rights Group

စစ်တပ်အာဏာသိမ်းပြီး (၁.၂.၂၀၂၁) ရက်နေ့မှ (၃၁.၁၂.၂၀၂၁) ရက်နေ့အထိ ပြည်သူလူထုထံသို့ KNDF ၏ အနှစ်ချုပ်အစီရင်ခံချက်

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

On-The-Ground in Burma: Issue #11

By US Campaign for Burma

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”