At a graduation ceremony at Western University on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen praised the solidarity and equality among Asean member states and explained the factors that pushed Cambodia to join the bloc in 1999.
Citing four reasons that influenced the Kingdom’s decision, he said foremost was Asean’s principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member countries.
“To protect our national sovereignty, the foreign policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations was our top priority. This was the first attractive factor,” he said.
Second, he said, was the bloc’s consensus-based decision-making mechanism which has united the member countries despite their vast difference in culture, language and economic status. This ensures that all states are treated equally, said Hun Sen.
He said that in 2017, there was a plan to revise the way the bloc governed itself, to which he objected saying that a revision in the consensus-based mechanism would only divide Asean.
“Asean has no small and big brothers. Asean has solidarity unlike the EU. EU has small and big brothers and has countries that oppose it and countries that leave it,” he said.
He asked Asean members and the Kingdom’s future leaders to maintain the decision-making mechanism and preserve harmony among member states.
The third factor, Hun Sen said, was the regional economic integration in Southeast Asia and beyond.
He noted that trade deals with countries outside the region, such as the Asean Free Trade Agreements with China, Korea, Japan, India, and others, has allowed Cambodia to expand its economic relations with other countries.
Lastly, Hun Sen cited the diplomatic relations the Kingdom had forged with Asean members and other countries outside the region.
“These attractive factors made us become an active member in Asean. We also have a voice in the bloc,” he said.
President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia Sok Touch agreed that the EU has unequal member states, noting the roles of Germany, France and the UK, although the last might soon leave the bloc.
Touch said the EU could not make decisions based on consensus as its international relations was more complicated and demanded discretion, as opposed to the Asean that does not have serious security challenges.