Prime Minister Hun Sen has reiterated that Cambodia will work hard to achieve consensus on the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea while chairing the ASEAN Summit next year and urged claimants to actively negotiate.
His statement came at a meeting with Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs Don Pramudwina at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on December 17. Don paid a courtesy call on Hun Sen as part of his formal three-day visit for the 11th meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) from December 16-18.
In a Facebook post, Hun Sen said Cambodia’s main goal as chair of ASEAN was to fight Covid-19 and reopen the bloc’s economies and reconnect its peoples to strengthen friendship, solidarity and promote cooperation between member states.
“Cambodia’s stance on the South China Sea is to promote the strict implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties [DOC] in the South China Sea and we urge the countries concerned to negotiate and work hard to achieve a mutually agreeable COC,” he said.
During the courtesy call, Hun Sen said Don congratulated him for successfully preventing the worst outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic in Cambodia and especially for vaccinating more than nearly 90 per cent of the population, as well as Cambodia’s rapid pace of development.
The Thai embassy in Phnom Penh said Don and Hun Sen expressed their readiness to strengthen relations in all aspects and that Thailand also reaffirmed support for Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2022.
The 11th JCBC was co-chaired by Don and his counterpart Prak Sokhonn.
Sokhonn said he and Don had a fruitful meeting as co-chairs of the meeting and that given the plethora of shared interests and visions, the friendship and positive relations between the two countries would only strengthen and flourish over time.
“I took the opportunity to wish Thailand great success in chairing APEC in 2022,” Sokhonn said in a Facebook post after the meeting.
Heng Kimkong, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and a visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodia Development Centre, said it was great that Hun Sen was making a strong commitment to facilitating a resolution for the troubles between ASEAN and China over the South China Sea.
“As ASEAN chair and as a country which enjoys a strong relationship with China – and also as a non-claimant state in the South China Sea disputes – Cambodia is in a good position to be a mediator and to resolve this issue,” he said.