Prime Minister Hun Sen holds out hope of a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar as he prepares for a much-anticipated visit to the country on January 7 in a bid to bring it back to the ASEAN fold.
The premier expressed his optimism on January 4 during a telephone call with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who wished him success and good luck as the ASEAN chair this year.
Hun Sen thanked Jokowi for his support and his recent participation in the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM13) hosted by Cambodia on November 25-26.
He also praised Indonesia for having taken the initiative on building the ASEAN community in a number of ways, such as the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific – a document that is important for guiding ASEAN’s external relations, ensuring ASEAN centrality and implementing the bloc’s comprehensive recovery framework.
“[We] thanked [Jokowi] for wishing Cambodia good luck and for supporting the Kingdom as it fulfils its role as the chair of ASEAN in 2022,” Hun Sen said in a Facebook post.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation also issued a press statement on the outcome of the telephone conversation between Hun Sen and Jokowi.
“The two leaders also exchanged views on the current developments in Myanmar and underscored the important need to focus ASEAN’s efforts to assist Myanmar in finding suitable solutions to achieving national reconciliation, durable peace, stability and development,” it said.
Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said the meeting between Hun Sen and Jokowi – taking place mere days before the Myanmar trip – was a form of public diplomacy that showed there was solidarity within ASEAN to all of the parties to the conflict within Myanmar and beyond.
Vannak said Hun Sen places a high value on Indonesian input for any discussion on regional issues because Indonesia has played an important role as mediator and facilitator in regional conflicts in the past.
Now, he said, Hun Sen may need the full backing of Indonesia in order to make his trip to Myanmar go smoothly and have fruitful results and that his call with Jokowi may have been to shore-up that support.
“Moreover, [Hun Sen] wanted to show the public that his efforts to find a solution to the Myanmar crisis have been discussed with the major countries in ASEAN, which comes amid resentment by some ASEAN members that would prefer something closer to a diplomatic boycott of Myanmar in light of the military’s coup against the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi,” Vannak said.
Cambodia officially became the chair of ASEAN for the third time on January 1. The Kingdom chose as this year’s theme “ASEAN ACT” – with the acronym standing for Addressing Challenges Together.
Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn said on January 3 that Cambodia’s logo design for ASEAN in 2022 incorporated the lotus flower, which embodies the glory and harmony of the peace sustained by all 10 ASEAN member states.
He noted that the lotus has three colours on its leaves which are the three colours of the Cambodian flag, adding that the gold highlights on the logo represent the richness of diversity within ASEAN.
“Our core spirit is togetherness, solidarity and harmony. Our key objectives is to maintain ASEAN centrality and unity, collectively address common challenges, ensure continuity of our works and uphold a human-centred approach. We are ready for this responsibility and we will fulfil this role with pride,” Sokhonn said in a Facebook post.
On January 3, Sokhonn also virtually delivered a lecture on Cambodia being the chair of ASEAN in a video conference organised by the Singapore-based ASEAN studies centre at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
“This lecture series has been contributing to the outreach efforts by ASEAN to the academic sphere, targeting a wide range of international audiences, including youth and senior demographics. I took this opportunity to discuss our chosen theme, major challenges, key priorities and what to expect this year in general,” Sokhonn said.