H. E. Hor Namhong talks about ASEAN and what it can do for Cambodia.
Cambodia is about to host its highest-profile international meetings - the Greater
Mekong Sub-Region Conference and the 8th ASEAN Heads of State Summit, among others.
Cambodian Foreign Minister HE Hor Namhong spoke to Post Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
Michael Hayes about what this means for the Kingdom and the region.
With these two important meetings coming up, what does this mean for the Kingdom
As you may know, this is the first time, not only for Cambodia but for ASEAN countries
as well, that we will have so many summits back-to-back. First, we will have the
GMS Summit, followed by the ASEAN Summit, followed by the ASEAN-Plus 3 Summit, you
understand what I mean by 'Plus 3', and after that the ASEAN-India Summit. And finally,
the meeting between the ASEAN leaders and the president of South Africa.
Therefore, there will be not only several Summits, but I would say that all these
summits will be landmark summits. Why? First, concerning the GMS Meeting, this will
be the first time since its foundation in 1992 that we have a GMS meeting. Thanks
to the initiative of Prime Minister Hun Sen, he proposed that the five other member
countries - Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China...and the ADB. For the ADB
is very important, the bank who finances the GMS projects. So, during the GMS meeting...it
will be the first time all the six members, joining with the ADB, will define the
strategy for the next ten years for the GMS to develop the Mekong Basin...I don't
know if you know that up to now the GMS has eight sectors: transport, energy, telecommunications,
tourism, environment, human resource development, trade and investment.
Also during this GMS Summit there will be adopted 11 flagship projects, in which
Cambodia will be involved in 10 flagship projects. And for the next three years for
the implementation of these flagship projects $1 billion will be needed and the ADB
already has $250 million [committed].
During this GMS meeting the six country members will sign a number of documents,
especially Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Clarification of the Relationship
between Cross-Border Framework Agreement and the Annexes and Protocols and Commitment
to Amend Article 17 (Driving Permits); second, they will sign the Instruments of
Accession of the People's Republic of China to the Framework Agreement on the Facilitation
of Cross-Border Movement of Goods and People; third, there will be an Inter-Governmental
Agreement on Power Interconnection and Trade. Actually, I can not tell you about
the details of the substance of these before they are discussed in the meeting.
How long has your Ministry been preparing for these meetings?
These meetings? Several months ago. A long time ago to prepare for all these meetings...
Can you describe the tangible benefits that the ASEAN Summit will bring to the
Kingdom and the Cambodian people?
I told you all these meetings will be landmark meetings. All these meetings. But
for the ASEAN Summit it will be the 8th Summit. It will also be a landmark Summit.
Why I say landmark ASEAN summit? Because during the meeting of the leaders we will
discuss a lot of issues, political and economic issues, international and regional
issues, you know. But besides that, what will be concretely done is the adoption
by the ASEAN leaders of what we call 'The Initiative for ASEAN Integration'. IAI.
Very important. It is now a priority for ASEAN.
Why? Because like it or not, there is a two-tier ASEAN today, as you know...economic
development from all the ASEAN members are not equal yet. So, in my view, ASEAN can
not move ahead by two steps. They have to walk to water in the same pace and I will
tell you later on why IAI is very important for ASEAN.
In Singapore during the Summit of ASEAN in 2000 the ASEAN leaders adopted the IAI,
but after that Cambodia had a very determined role to push IAI. Therefore we organized
in Phnom Penh last year the first workshop to elaborate on ASEAN integration. Now
with the [plan] we have achieved 50 IAI projects, in which there will be 15 on infrastructure,
for the new members, 16 projects for human resource development, 7 projects for ICT,
and 12 projects for regional, economic cooperation for ASEAN as a whole...The leaders
during the Summit in Phnom Penh will adopt these projects.
There will be a big focus on tourism during the Summit?
We will sign the Tourism Agreement. It is also thanks to the initiative of Prime
Minister Hun Sen. We proposed to all the ASEAN leaders in Brunei last year and all
accepted to sign to the agreement in Phnom Penh
Can you tell me what does this mean practically?
Practically? You see now there are tourists visiting each ASEAN country separately;
they have package tours from Europe, America, somewhere to visit ASEAN. But our Tourism
Minister will meet in January 2003 in Phnom Penh to follow-up on this Tourism Agreement
signed by the ASEAN leaders. This is very important for ASEAN as a whole.
With any discussion of tourism, you have to also talk about security...Is ASEAN
cooperating on this closely?
Sure, sure, sure. The concerned authorities, the police, have met in Phnom Penh
recently, [those] from ASEAN. They have an agreement between Malaysia, Indonesia
and the Philippines to exchange on information... Cambodia was the first to accede
to this agreement...We have a declaration on terrorism between ASEAN and the US,
but in ASEAN...we have a special agreement between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines,
these three countries are very sensitive to terrorism, to coordinate, to increase
their common action.
Do you have any concerns about terrorist threats here in Cambodia?
I think after the Bali attack, you know, we shouldn't get panicky. I can tell
you, for security issues, our police have worked a long time, not only today or during
the summit. I can not tell you what they have done, what they are doing and what
they will do during the Summit, but what I can tell you is that we have taken a lot
of measures and actions...to prevent any trouble...I feel confident.
As I started to say, there are not only several summits... but these summits have
important issues to be discussed... to be approved. It is the first time in Phnom
Penh that ASEAN Plus 3 will discuss really deeply about cooperation in East Asia.
Up to now we used to talk about ASEAN Plus 3, but in Phnom Penh and from now on we
will talk more about East Asia.... as a whole.
And to move in that direction... to deepen East Asia cooperation, we have three important
documents to discuss and to be endorsed by the ASEAN leaders.
First, is the Initiative for the Development in East Asia. IDEA. This IDEA comes
from the Japanese Prime Minister. And he said by launching this initiative, Prime
Minister Koizumi said: "Act together, advance together."... There will
be the adoption of the Joint Declaration of the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN adopted
in Tokyo on Aug 12. So, this Joint Declaration on action to be taken will be endorsed
by the ASEAN Summit.
The second document will be the 28 recommendations of the final report of the East
Asia Study Group...This was... proposed in Singapore in 2000 in order to move forward
to what we call an East Asia Forum... but I should tell you that we are not at this
stage yet... We have to move step by step... In Phnom Penh we talk about much more
East Asia... and not only about ASEAN....
The third document is the Framework Agreement between ASEAN and China on the program
for economic cooperation, to enhance cooperation between ASEAN and China. These three
documents are the very basic documents for strengthening, deepening East Asia cooperation.
...Let me come to the ASEAN-India Summit. I think, in my view, my own view, I
stress that, not the ASEAN view, why we move to the east... It is extremely important
for ASEAN and for East Asia as a whole, if we succeed we develop a deep Asian economic
pole, between Europe and America, but in my view, nevertheless, why we move to the
East ... if ASEAN can associate with India for economic development this is very
[critical]...it will be a plus for ASEAN.
This also is the initiative of Prime Minister Hun Sen. When he visited India in 2000
he proposed that to the Indian leaders and now he realized that...If India agrees,
from both sides, not only ASEAN, it will be very important. So ASEAN Plus 3, East
Asia on the one hand...it will be more than 3 billion people. Half of the population
of the world. So, I stress if we succeed to associate all these big economic powers
with ASEAN it will be very, very good for not only ASEAN, but all these countries
too, China, Japan, India. So it is very important.
So the last one...we have invited President Thabo Mbeki from South Africa for a working
visit to Cambodia. During this working visit President Mbeki will address the ASEAN
leaders on the New Partnership for African Development. NEPAD...This is an African
initiative to develop Africa... Now the whole of Africa has given great importance
Before we had the OAU, now we have the African Union, a new one. So, this is the
first time we have a meeting between Asia as a whole with Africa as a whole, represented
by President Mbeki. What does that mean? That would mean also the future cooperation
between ASEAN and Africa in the terms of South-South cooperation too... as all of
us belong to the developing world so I think it is good for us understand each other
With Cambodia's membership in Asean, it is assumed there are economic benefits.
What are they for the Cambodian people?
I need to say, Cambodia must be a member of ASEAN for political and economic reasons.
We cannot afford to stay outside ASEAN for political and also economic reasons. Why?
Because in our bilateral relations with many countries we receive assistance from
friendly countries bilaterally, but within ASEAN we also receive assistance from
the dialogue partners in the framework of ASEAN too. That's one issue. And also if
Cambodia stays alone, we will always be thinking about Cambodia alone. But now, ASEAN
will have ASEAN investment areas... so we will benefit together, all the members
of ASEAN, everything. To [consider] only IAI, for the idea of [cooperation with]
Japan, for the recommendations of the East Asia Study Group or for the [agreement]
with China, all this will benefit all the ASEAN countries, including Cambodia. And
during this summit in Phnom Penh, the Plus 3 countries, and India will also support
the IAI . So Cambodia, everybody... including China [will benefit].
Does ASEAN have the potential to become as significant as the European Union or
...We are moving now to an East Asia Forum, you see. But in the way we are talking
about East Asian cooperation, it is only one of the steps. Before we used to say
only 'ASEAN-Plus 3', 'ASEAN-Plus 3'. But here in Phnom Penh we will, I mean, go around
East Asia as a whole, and also towards India. And the day in the future, it may be
a long future alors. The day we achieve to integrate East Asia. Now we talk about
East Asian cooperation, but the day when we could realize East Asian cooperation
by associating India in ASEAN, how important will this be! Imagine that. So therefore
I am very optimistic about Asia and the future of East Asian cooperation, the future
of ASEAN cooperation
Within the region the Spratley Islands are mentioned as a potential area of
conflict. What is Cambodia's position on resolving the dispute over the Spratley
Now, all the ASEAN friends with China, we are discussing to finalize a document
to be signed in Phnom Penh. There remains one or two small questions that I hope
that ASEAN countries with China can agree on that so the document will be signed
in Phnom Penh during the Summit... on what we call the "South China Sea".
In the next days there will be a meeting of senior officials. It is not sure yet
that it will be signed but I hope already that we can overcome some small issues
to finalize the document to be signed.
I've heard that Australia is interested in a regular dialogue with ASEAN. Is this
Thank you for this very important question. It is true that Australia would like
to have a summit with ASEAN. I received a formal request as chairman of ASEAN...
Cambodia strongly supports this meeting at the highest level. Why? Because if we
look to the figures of trade and economic action between ASEAN and Australia, it
is very important, and Australia is always very important as a partner and an active
member of the Asian Regional Forum... so, but like it or not, although the people,
Australians are not Asian, but Australia is in Asia, close to ASEAN countries. Therefore,
I think if we have such a summit between Australia and ASEAN [both will benefit].
Therefore vis-à-vis our partners in ASEAN, what I call our colleagues and
partners in ASEAN, we are in favor of the summit and Prime Minister Hun Sen will
raise this issue during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh too. I hope that there will
be no opposition from ASEAN countries.
For more information on the summit visit the Ministry's website at: www.mfaic.gov.kh