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Asean gives Cambodia thumbs up

Asean gives Cambodia thumbs up

A SEAN'S member countries support Cambodia's bid for membership at least as strongly as Vietnam's, according to Foreign Affairs and Information Committee chairman Om Rasady.

There was no sign of opposition to Cambodia's participation in Asean, said Rasady, who is also a director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.

Documents were now in the process of being prepared to present to Asean, the first step in satisfying the procedures to full membership, he said.

For the first time, Cambodia will have official observer status at the Asean conference in Bandung, Indonesia in the next few days.

There were "technical matters" to put in place and then an agreement signed in the Asean management office for Cambodia to have observer status confirmed for the Bandung meeting, he said.

It would then be up to Asean members to grant Cambodia full membership "in a matter of weeks or months," he said.

It was the role of newly-appointed Foreign Minister Ung Huot to request Cambodia's participation in the group, he said.

The Secretary-General of Asean Ajit Singh is arriving in Phnom Penh on Dec 7 and is expected to discuss the timetable of Cambodia's participation in Asean with Huot .

Asean had made it clear that it was not only in Cambodia's interests to join the group but it was in the interests of the whole region, Radsady said.

Huot said that Cambodia wanted to join Asean "as soon as possible."

Asean membership, said Ung Huot, would mean "cooperation, economic advantages and friendship and the ability to find peace in Cambodia."

When asked whether Asean membership might open Cambodia for more military aid, Huot said he had no real comment.

But he added: "Maybe not, because Asean is an economic forum."

He said membership would guarantee Cambodia more trade opportunities and more economic aid.

After the granting of observer status, Rasady said Asean's policy to support Cambodia's entry was not only the interest of Cambodia, but also the main interest of Asean itself.

Rasady said Asean not only supports but is also pushing Cambodia to join Asean.

Cambodia had a free democracy, and was developing and improving security in accordance with Asean policy, he said.

"The main purpose of Cambodia joining Asean was to strengthen the economy and promote the economic programs, he said. "As Vietnam and Laos join Asean, so then we cannot isolate."

Rasady described the purpose of Cambodia to join Asean.

He said as Cambodia was under rehabilitation it needed to strengthen and expand its economy through investment - but that first meant developing its infrastructure.

"Roads, electricity, water systems, railways, ports... all these need to be repaired or rebuilt, that is why we have to cooperate with Asean," Rasady said.

Rasady said: "Asean has a big principle structure, of politics, social and economic programs. We lose nothing but take in their experience, research and practice."

Joining Asean would bring Cambodia full circle - during the 80s the grouping supported the Resistance factions in their fight with the SOC regime in Phnom Penh.

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