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Asean review lacked balance

Asean review lacked balance

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Productive process: delegates attend a session of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit in Phnom Penh in November 2012. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Dear Editor,

Having carefully read the article headed “South China Sea row was elephant in room for Kingdom’s year in the chair”, published in the Post on December 28 and written by Shane Worrell, I am disappointed by the work of this particular journalist for being so ignorant, for lacking in-depth understanding of ASEAN affairs, and for having no sense of professional journalism.

The article is full of mistakes, confusion and myopic personal views.

A mature, responsible and professional journalist would not have written such an article in the first place. Let me clarify the following overall view, without referring to any specific issues.

First, the article did not present a balanced and impartial position when it tried to review the work of Cambodia for the entire year of its ASEAN chairmanship.

Nowhere in the article did the writer mention, or highlight, any of Cambodia’s achievements during its role as ASEAN chair.

Second, the article appeared to be a subjective view. But the fact that it was published in the national-news pages of the newspaper suggests the writer and the publisher of this newspaper had tried to trick readers into assuming this was a regular news report.

Third, there may be a clear political motive for both the writer and the publisher in printing this negative article on Cambodia and ASEAN.

The article was written to serve the political agenda of someone trying to unleash criticism on Cambodia. Cambodia deserves better reporting.

Fourth, any journalist who wants to write on ASEAN affairs should have some basic understanding of ASEAN and use some of the ASEAN terminology correctly.

For example, one mistake in this article is to call the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) a summit. The ARF is only at the level of foreign ministers, whereas the summit is at the level of leaders, heads of state and governments.

Fifth, to state that ASEAN discussed only the issue of the South China Sea during the whole year of Cambodia in the ASEAN chair is to really miss the point.

The South China Sea was not the only issue that was deliberated by ASEAN leaders and ASEAN foreign ministers.

They had, in fact, discussed, and agreed on, a wide range of other issues, including a drug-free ASEAN, the ASEAN human-rights declaration, the ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre and the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia, to mention just a few.

The media, including The Phnom Penh Post, had completely failed to give a comprehensive, in-depth coverage of all ASEAN-related issues.

Sixth, the article tried to falsely accuse Cambodia of having been bought by China and pretending to be “coy”, which is a great insult to Cambodia. No country could buy Cambodia.

It is, however, in the interests of Cambodia, like any other country, to have close relations with any country that it deems strategically, politically or economically important.

Seventh, it should be noted that the 45th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting  failed to issue a joint communiqué (JC) because two of the 10 ASEAN member states had taken the JC hostage by demanding that one of the four paragraphs on the South China Sea in the JC must include their respective domestic demands.

This led to the lack of consensus and challenged ASEAN’s established practice of not including anything that does not have a full consensus and without having to throw out the entire document.

Eighth, during throughout 2012, Cambodia had worked very hard to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC); to complete the draft on the key elements for the Code of Conduct (COC) on the ASEAN side; to launch and convene three ASEAN-China Senior Officials’ Informal Consultations on the COC; to organise the workshop on the 10th anniversary of the DOC; and to have the Joint Statement of the 15th ASEAN-China Summit on the 10th anniversary of the DOC.

It is absurd, therefore, to say that Cambodia had blocked the work on the DOC and COC.

Ninth, Cambodia is proud of its achievements and successes in 2012 as chair of ASEAN.

Despite whatever The Phnom Penh Post has written on Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN, the truth remains.

Even ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, of Singapore, has publicly recognised ASEAN’s accomplishments during Cambodia’s chairmanship, as reflected in his article “Achievements of the 21st ASEAN Summit”, published in the ISEAS Perspective on December 20.

Koy Kuong
Under Secretary of State spokesperson


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