Former Prime Minister Hun Sen, president of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), appealed to his ASEAN and Russian counterparts to communicate with all sides in order to uphold regional peace, stability and development, in the face of competition between superpowers. 

Hun Sen made the call during a roundtable meeting with seven of ASEAN’s ruling political parties and Russia’s ruling United Russia party, held virt on January 23. 

He urged all nations to uphold the principles of multilateralism and resolve issues peacefully, based on international law. He described the global situation as fragile and tense, due to some nations’ use of armed forces.

The roundtable was initiated by the United Russia party. Also in attendance were the Communist Party of Vietnam; the Golkar party of Indonesia; the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party; the United Malays National Organisation; the Union Solidarity and Development Party of Myanmar; and Thailand’s Pheu Thai Party.

According to a CPP press release, the meeting was held under the theme “The role of the political party of Russia and the political parties of ASEAN”.

While addressing the meeting, Hun Sen hailed the United Russia for initiating the talks, which he said would promote global unity in the face of tense geopolitical competition between the superpowers.

“The world has laid out strategies that drive separation rather than foster collaboration. This had led to disturbances in international order,” he said.

“This has led to a distrust of the superpowers, which in turn hampers efforts to foster cooperation in addressing global challenges of common interests and concerns, for example contagious diseases, climate change and non-traditional security issues,” he added.

Hun Sen noted that these disturbances had increased competition between ASEAN nations, which hindered ASEAN centrality and increased tension in the region.

He reiterated that ASEAN should not choose one member over another. He viewed every member of the bloc as an indispensable partner to uphold regional peace, stability and development.

He also expressed concerns about the trend of imposing economic and trade sanctions on the pretext of democracy and human rights issues, noting that this can prompt the countries which impose the sanctions to interfere in internal affairs of smaller, weaker sovereign states.

“When I addressed the 76th session of the UN General Assembly [UNGA], I said that history had taught us that foreign interference or the use of force to make people accept any system of government is never a good solution. Cambodia once experienced the tragic results of this type of action,” he said.

Hun Sen called on the UN to maintain its influence and role, saying it should adhere to the UN Charter, promote the principles of democracy and the right to self-determination of all nations, and implement international laws fairly, with no double standards. 

He said the UN must avoid allowing international order to be challenged, and should be focused on ending armed conflicts through peaceful diplomatic means.

“War cannot solve any problems, and political and economic sanctions should be resolved bilaterally. Protectionism does not solve issues but only amplifies them, prolonging them and making them more complicated. The world must strengthen the principles of multilateralism to solve its issues,” he added.

Regarding ASEAN-Russia relations, as chair of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue Partnership, Hun Sen is committed to strengthening the ASEAN-Russia Strategic Partnership, via the implementation of the Partnership Strategic Plan 2021-25.

Seng Vanly, a regional political observer and lecturer of international relations, noted that the superpowers rarely respected the UN, but vetoed UN resolutions or used their seats on the UN Security Council for their personal benefit. Things that affected their own interests were rarely resolved, or stalled at the negotiation phase, with the Russian war in Ukraine a recent example.

“When something affects the interests of one of the superpowers, such as the US, China or Russia, the UN is less effective in resolving issues,” he said. 

Vanly hailed Hun Sen’s calls for ASEAN member countries to remain neutral and not discriminate against any party.

He noted that Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have issued similar calls, urging that ASEAN centrality be maintained in the face of competition for influence, especially by China and the US. Cambodia, he added, was sometimes mentioned in these calls as some observers perceive that the Kingdom is biased towards China.