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Hun Sen, Abhisit and ASEAN leaders to meet Obama

THE White House has announced that United States President Barack Obama will meet Southeast Asian leaders this month in New York as America tries to bolster its role in a region facing a rising China.

The gathering may also provide a chance for Prime Minister Hun Sen to meet Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, but officials from both countries said private talks between the two had not yet been scheduled.

The White House said on Friday that Obama would hold talks with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in New York on September 24, during the annual United Nations General Assembly.

The New York meeting will follow the inaugural summit that Obama held last year in Singapore with his counterparts from ASEAN, as he seeks to reinvigorate US engagement with the bloc.

The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Ongart Klampaiboon, Abhisit’s office minister, said following a meeting with Hun Sen that the Cambodian premier was prepared to meet Abhisit in New York. Yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said there was “no official information” about such a meeting.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn also said that no meeting had been scheduled with Hun Sen, but that Abhisit “hopes to see [Hun Sen] as soon as possible”. Cambodia and Thailand restored full diplomatic ties last month after the resignation of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra from his position as economics adviser to the Cambodian government.

Abhisit and Hun Sen have said they intend to meet on the sidelines of October’s Asia-Europe Meeting in Belgium.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first spoke of the second ASEAN summit when she visited Vietnam in July, In Hanoi, Clinton called for open access to the South China Sea – an area of growing tension between China and Southeast Asian nations, particularly Vietnam. China rebuked Clinton for her remarks.

The coming elections in Myanmar, scheduled for November, are also likely be a critical issue in the talks.

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