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ASEAN defence chiefs adopt co-op declaration at meeting

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Defence ministers pose for a photo at the 16th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (16th ADMM), in Phnom Penh on June 22. Heng Chivoan

ASEAN defence chiefs adopt co-op declaration at meeting

Deputy Prime Minister Tea Banh said the 10 ASEAN defence ministers had adopted a joint declaration on defence cooperation which would strengthen their solidarity towards harmonious security. Cambodia and Japan have also agreed to deepen cooperation in the military sector.

The declaration was adopted at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), which was held in-person on June 22 in Phnom Penh. Cambodia, as the chair of ASEAN, hosted the meeting, which was also attended by General Mya Tun Oo, the Myanmar defence minister appointed by the ruling State Administration Council (SAC).

In a press conference immediately after the meeting, General Tea Banh – who chaired the meeting in his capacity as Cambodia’s defence minister – said the Kingdom took great pride in hosting the first face-to-face meeting in two years.

“This helped create the momentum which drove the lively discussions we just had,” he said.

He hoped that the ASEAN Plus Defence Summit, scheduled for November in Siem Reap province, will also be a great success.

As Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhon, who is also the ASEAN special envoy on Myanmar – plans to pay his second visit to the crisis-hit country later this month, General Tea Banh said what Cambodia is striving for as the chair of the bloc is to fulfill its role as best it can.

Tea Banh noted that the presence of Myanmar’s SAC-appointed defence minister was indicative of the way the Kingdom was determined to play its role without discriminating against or leaving any ASEAN member behind. Cambodia wanted to maintain the theme of the meeting, “Solidarity for Security and Harmony”.

“We have achieved this solidarity. With the unanimous consent of the ASEAN members, we were able to include the Myanmar delegation in our face-to-face meeting,” he said.

Turning to the prolonged Russia-Ukraine conflict, General Tea Banh briefly stated that Cambodia would not support any invasion, the use of force or separatism, saying: “We have a certain position, based on lessons from the past.”

He also introduced the win-win policy of Prime Minister Hun Sen, which eventually brought about comprehensive peace that Cambodia enjoys today, to the ASEAN defence ministers.

“I spoke about win-win politics. I explained in the meeting how peace was achieved by the Kingdom and remains to this day. The most important foundation for the development of any country is peace, and the most valuable peace is won through win-win policies.”

Thong Meng Davit, a researcher at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said the Cambodian-led meeting reflected the ASEAN leaders’ commitment to building a peaceful and prosperous region and building mutual trust through information exchange and regional security cooperation.

“The ASEAN bloc must unite in defending its neutrality and geopolitical competition from the superpowers. Also important was the participation of Myanmar. The fact that Cambodia invited its minister to attend shows the chair’s interest in resolving regional issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen and Japanese Minister of Defence Kishi Nobuo met on June 22 and agreed to strengthen defence cooperation.

The two nations would share information and examine changing perspectives on assessing regional and global developments, according to the premier’s official Facebook post after the meeting.

“The Prime Minister expressed support for existing cooperation and requested that the Cambodia-Japan Bilateral Cooperation Plan be boosted, through officer exchanges and cross-training which would enhance the capacity of the Cambodian Army in humanitarian work, disaster relief, engineering and health services,” it added.

On June 22, Hun Sen also met with the ASEAN defence ministers, led by Halbi bin Mohammad Yussof, Minister of the Bruneian Prime Minister’s Office, who reported to Hun Sen that the meeting had approved four documents.

According to Hun Sen’s social media post, the documents included a concept paper on enhancing ASEAN military cooperation in preventing epidemic diseases; one on enhancing support for female peacekeepers; one on the role of national defence institutions in supporting post-Covid-19 recovery; and one on boosting cooperation between ASEAN military educational institutions.

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