Prime Minister Hun Manet has expressed concern over rising geopolitical rivalry in the region and beyond, noting that this has made it difficult for some countries to maintain neutrality. Meanwhile, ASEAN leaders wish to see harmonious relations between the super powers: China and the US.

Manet made his remarks at the 43rd ASEAN Summit on September 5 in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Indonesia holds rotating ASEAN chair for 2023.

“I raised concerns about the escalation of geopolitical rivalry which has made it difficult for some countries to find a neutral point that supports inclusive cooperation and peaceful coexistence,” he said in a social media post after the plenary meeting.

“ASEAN’s response is not enough if it only responds to the ongoing crisis. It needs to anticipate and prevent such crises, and mitigate their impact through the use of the special role of the ASEAN Summit, the bloc’s top policy-making body, in line with the core principles of consultation and consensus,” he added.

Manet explained that ASEAN can and must take serious and timely action on issues that are urgent and important. To become the center of global growth, ASEAN needs to find new sources of robust and crisis-resilient development, including the digital transformation, a green transition and a blue, innovative economy.

During the 26th ASEAN-China meeting on September 6, held in the presence of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Manet said Cambodia recognises the common interests of the good relations that have existed between the bloc and the world’s second-largest economy for nearly three decades.

“For Cambodia, [China’s] Belt and Road Initiative [BRI] has provided many benefits, especially in the areas of transportation and logistics. This includes the Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which is a good example of the achievements of this initiative,” he added.

During the meeting, Manet also confirmed his upcoming visit to Nanning, China to attend the 20th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), and to Beijing for the BRI summit.

“[Manet] also noted the importance of the tourism sector, an important driver of economic growth, but one which remains low compared to pre-pandemic levels. He stressed the need for ASEAN to promote the effective implementation of the joint statement between ASEAN and China on tourism cooperation,” said an online statement by former Prime Minister Hun Sen, currently serving as president of the Supreme Privy Council to the King.

“ASEAN leaders wish to see harmonious relations between China and the US continue to provide economic and trade benefits to the region as a whole,” it said.

On the sidelines of the Jakarta summit, the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting (AMM) was held on September 5. It focused on the advancement of ASEAN community building under the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, on exploring approaches to advancing progress in the implementation of the five-point consensus (5PC) on Myanmar, and on ASEAN’s engagement with the bloc’s dialogue – and other external – partners.

The assembled foreign ministers expressed their satisfaction with the positive momentum of the ASEAN community-building process, according to a press release from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

It said the burgeoning number of countries outside the region that have expressed their interest in acceding to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) reflects increasing recognition of the importance of ASEAN centrality in maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond.

“They encouraged further progress in the implementation of the 5PC and underlined that the consensus, including the ASEAN leaders’ review and decision on the implementation, remains the key reference to helping Myanmar return to normalcy,” it added.

“The meeting further stressed that the 5PC should serve as the necessary instrument to create a conducive environment towards peaceful dialogue among all stakeholders for the benefit of all of the people of Myanmar,” it continued.

During the meeting, Cambodian foreign minister SoK Chenda Sophea reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for Indonesia’s efforts to promote dialogue among the stakeholders concerned. He also reiterated the need to maintain ASEAN unity and perseverance to address the highly complex issue of Myanmar.

He highlighted the spirit of unity that ASEAN has displayed in navigating several multifaceted challenges, describing it as a beacon of peace, stability and prosperity for the region.

He believes it is imperative that the bloc continue to strengthen the effectiveness of its main institutions in order to address emerging complex geo-strategic challenges.

Chenda Sophea also stressed the importance of continually augmenting ASEAN’s institutional capacity, in order to manage its partnerships for the interests of all of the people of the region. This will allow it to foster fruitful collaborations in a myriad of areas with external partners.

“[He] also reaffirmed Cambodia’s determination to contribute to a nuclear-weapon-free Southeast Asia, and commended China’s readiness to embrace the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone [SEANWFZ] Treaty without reservation,” said the release.

“This, if concluded, will encourage other nuclear weapon states to follow suit,” it said.