C AMBODIA was invited to become a member of ASEAN when the group was formed in
1967, but then-Prince Norodom Sihanouk said no, moving instead closer to
communist China and Vietnam.
During that time, China's enemies were also
Cambodia's, and ASEAN, which Beijing considered as a "US-sponsored military
alliance", was one of China's adversaries.
After the Lon Nol coup in
1970, Cambodia became politically closer to the pro-Western ASEAN, but Lon Nol
was too preoccupied with internal problems to join.
ASEAN was prepared to
co-operate with the Khmer Rouge after 1975 but that regime was determined not to
have diplomatic relations with such foreign powers.
The KR successors,
the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK), was a Vietnamese ally and never
contemplated ASEAN membership.
Academics argue that Chinese and ASEAN
interests coincided at this period, both sides for different reasons wanting to
check Soviet and Vietnamese expansionism.
"In short," says Dr Sorpong
Peou of Singapore's Canada-ASEAN Center, "Cambodia's attitudes toward ASEAN
during the Cold War were always borne out of the great powers' geo-strategic
Cambodia's unprecedented step toward ASEAN came only after
the UN-sponsored elections of 1993.
In July 1994 then Foreign Minister
Norodom Sirivudh was invited to Singapore for ASEAN talks and indicated that
Cambodia should join. His successor Ung Huot presented an instrument acceding to
the Treaty of Amity and Coopertion - a prerequisite for membership - in January