Cambodia will play host to the three-day ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat from February 15-17, where seven ASEAN foreign ministers will be meeting in person, notably without the presence of Myanmar, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

“The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ retreat meeting will be attended by all ASEAN member states, except Myanmar, whom we have not received confirmation from. Brunei and Thailand will attend virtually,” ministry spokesperson Chum Sounry told The Post on February 14.

Earlier this month, Cambodia requested that Myanmar send a “non-political representative” to attend the retreat due to a “lack of progress” in carrying out the ASEAN five-point consensus (5PC) regarding the crisis in Myanmar.

Key topics to be discussed during the retreat include how to further strengthen external relations with dialogue partners and ways to promote ASEAN solidarity. The regional ministers will also discuss ways to build resilience and peace within the region.

Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn is slated to present the key aims of Cambodia’s chairmanship of the union under the theme “ASEAN ACT: Addressing Challenges Together”, where he will discuss the Kingdom’s vision for addressing strategic challenges facing the region.

Sokhonn is expected to touch on goals including the effective control of Covid-19 and the pandemic recovery process, geo-political rivalries, existing traditional and non-traditional issues, and strengthening the collective resilience of ASEAN member states.

The ministry issued two separate press statements on February 13 confirming the attendance of Lao foreign minister Saleumxay Kommasith and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.

During the visit, Kommasith will be received in a Royal Audience with King Norodom Sihamoni at the Royal Palace. He will pay a courtesy call to Prime Minister Hun Sen and meet with Sokhonn to discuss bilateral relations.

Singapore foreign minister Balakrishnan will also have a call with Prime Minister Hun Sen and then meet with Sokhonn to discuss matters including bilateral trade, tourism, education and health. He will also meet with Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Environment Say Samal, and Hun Many, chairman of the National Assembly’s Commission on Education, Youth, Sports, Religious Affairs, Culture and Tourism.

“The official visit of foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan to Cambodia will further broaden and deepen close relations and cooperation between Cambodia and Singapore for the mutual benefit of the two nations,” the ministry said.

Foreign ministry secretary of state Luy David told state news agency AKP that he was confident this week’s ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat would serve as proof that Cambodia is capable of organising in-person meetings in the Covid-19 era.

This is the first major meeting that Cambodia will be hosting as ASEAN chair and will serve as a test for the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, scheduled for August, he said.