Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Cambodia on Monday for an official visit to strengthen ties between the countries.
The three-day visit is the first since Suu Kyi became her country’s head of government in 2016. Cambodia’s foreign ministry said she will meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen, King Norodom Sihamoni and other Cambodian officials before visiting the famous Angkor Wat archaeological complex.
Suu Kyi arrived from Beijing, where both she and Hun Sen attended a forum about China’s multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. Representatives of 37 countries were at the meeting on the massive infrastructure-building plan.
Myanmar and Cambodia have both grown closer to China in reaction to pressure from Western nations over human rights issues. Concerns about Myanmar focused on the military’s abuses of the Muslim Rohingya minority, which drove more than 700,000 across the border to Bangladesh, while Cambodia was criticized mainly for choking off political dissent, especially by having the only credible opposition party dissolved before last year’s election.
Speaking last September at the regional World Economic Forum in Vietnam, Hun Sen strongly defended Myanmar against accusations that its security forces engaged in genocide against its Rohingya minority, and he hit back at criticism by outsiders of political issues in the Mekong region, saying that the countries should be allowed to solve their own problems.
Hun Sen said other countries do not understand the problems that Myanmar and its neighbours face.
“The situation in Myanmar is more serious because it has been accused of genocide, but do those who might accuse them know about Myanmar and do they know how to solve the situation up there?” he said, as he sat on the stage with Suu Kyi and the leaders of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand.
Myanmar and Cambodia both have a history of standing apart from the major powers, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. They established diplomatic relations in 1955, the same year both participated in the 29-nation Afro-Asian Conference, a forerunner of the Non-Aligned Movement.