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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - History of the slow boat to ASEAN

History of the slow boat to ASEAN

C AMBODIA was invited to become a member of ASEAN when the group was formed in

1967, but then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk said no, moving instead closer to

communist China and Vietnam.

During that time, China's enemies were also

Cambodia's, and ASEAN, which Beijing considered as a "US-sponsored military

alliance", was one of China's adversaries.

After the Lon Nol coup in

1970, Cambodia became politically closer to the pro-Western ASEAN, but Lon Nol

was too preoccupied with internal problems to join.

ASEAN was prepared to

co-operate with the Khmer Rouge after 1975 but that regime was determined not to

have diplomatic relations with such foreign powers.

The KR successors,

the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), was a Vietnamese ally and never

contemplated ASEAN membership.

Academics argue that Chinese and ASEAN

interests coincided at this period, both sides for different reasons wanting to

check Soviet and Vietnamese expansionism.

"In short," says Dr Sorpong

Peou of Singapore's Canada-ASEAN Center, "Cambodia's attitudes toward ASEAN

during the Cold War were always borne out of the great powers' geo-strategic

imperatives."

Cambodia's unprecedented step toward ASEAN came only after

the UN-sponsored elections of 1993.

In July 1994 then Foreign Minister

Norodom Sirivudh was invited to Singapore for ASEAN talks and indicated that

Cambodia should join. His successor Ung Huot presented an instrument acceding to

the Treaty of Amity and Coopertion - a prerequisite for membership - in January

1995.

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