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Hun Sen set to attend ASEAN summits without Myanmar

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Bruneian Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (left) and Prime Minister Hun Sen. AFP, SPM

Hun Sen set to attend ASEAN summits without Myanmar

Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits, which will be held in combination together this year online on October 26-28 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a press release on October 25, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Hun Sen will deliver addresses to a series of upcoming summits including the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits, the 22nd ASEAN-Republic of Korea Summit and the 24th ASEAN-China Summit, among others.

The prime minister will also give a speech at the closing ceremony on October 28 when Brunei hands off the ASEAN chairmanship to Cambodia for 2022.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on October 25 that at the ASEAN summit the priority this year was combating Covid-19 and beginning the post-pandemic economic recovery.

He also said the ASEAN leaders’ views on the role of ASEAN in the region and the world in the context of increasing geopolitical tensions and competition would remain a priority at this meeting, especially pertaining to the South China Sea.

Phea said one of the biggest challenges that ASEAN is facing and one that could revolutionise ASEAN’s political culture was the legitimacy or lack thereof of Myanmar’s military coup leaders who were not invited to this year’s summit and whose actions present ASEAN with a difficult dilemma.

If ASEAN allows the Myanmar coup leader – the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing – to attend these summits, it will cause further difficulties to ASEAN, Phea said.

“It’s a hotly contested issue over in Myanmar and it will remain contentious while Cambodia is hosting these summits in 2022 as the ASEAN chair. I don’t believe Brunei really wants to solve the problem. Brunei is ignoring the situation because their mandate has nearly ended and it’s much easier for them to just dump it in our country’s lap,” Phea said.

On the 30th anniversary of the Paris Peace Agreements on October 23, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn said the political and security crisis in Myanmar was creating unprecedented difficulties both within ASEAN itself and between ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

He expressed hope that the lessons Cambodia had to learn at great cost about obtaining peace and achieving national reconciliation could contribute to resolving the crisis in Myanmar so that its people would not suffer through years of conflict and their nation could resume being a full participant in the ASEAN family.

He added that given the 2022 chairmanship theme, Cambodia would appeal to all members of the ASEAN community to unite together in addressing the many complex challenges that they face.

“We hope that with solidarity between ASEAN members and with the support of our external partners, Cambodia will be able to enhance and advance the ASEAN Community building process, strengthen ASEAN centrality and preserve its important role in global trade, investment and the supply chain through timely implementation of the [ASEAN economic recovery policy frameworks],” he said.

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