The national assemblies (NA) of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV) have agreed to create a joint summit mechanism, aiming to deepen political, cultural, economic and security cooperation after working together for more than two decades.

Political observers have praised the agreement, saying stronger ties will benefit the interests of all three nations.

The agreement was announced at the 43rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), held in Phnom Penh from November 20-25. The signing ceremony was held in the presence of Cambodia’s NA president Heng Samrin, Laos’ Saysomphone Phomvihane and Vietnam’s Vuong Dinh Hue.

According to a November 20 press release from Cambodia’s NA, the summit will be an addition to existing mechanisms, which include meetings of the CLV’s foreign affairs commissions.

“The summit will further deepen our relationship, friendship, solidarity and cooperation in all sectors,” it said.

The summit would encourage the dissemination and exchange of information and experiences, and ease the implementation of the functions and duties of the CLV assemblies. It would also provide an opportunity to mobilise financial resources for programmes and projects that fall under the framework of the CLV Development Triangle Area (CLV-DTA).

According to the press release, Laos’ NA will host the first parliamentary summit in 2023.

Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said increased CLV cooperation would serve the interests of all three partners. He brushed off concerns about Cambodia becoming closer to its two communist neighbours were unfounded, noting that in the current global circumstances, most countries are more interested in their economic interests than political affiliations.

“Cambodia has its elected government and the Constitution remains the supreme law of the Kingdom. We will not be losing any of our sovereignty through this agreement,” he said.

“We will cooperate with them, and any accusations of a move towards communism are ridiculous. Obviously, the US cooperates closely with China, and nobody is suggesting that they support socialism,” he added.

Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said that strengthening CLV parliamentary cooperation is a positive move, although existing inter-governmental cooperation is already good. The fact that the three nations are neighbours is also significant.

“This cooperation concerns geographic, historical and social factors. Closer parliamentary mechanisms are helpful for the sharing of intelligence with law enforcement, for example. The legislative branches will benefit from an increased pool of shared wisdom,” he said.

Peou agreed that enhancing parliamentary cooperation would not affect the sovereignty of Cambodia or that of any country.

Formal ties between the CLV’s assemblies were established in 1999, when the three governments established the CLV-DTA.