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PM hopes Asean will ‘root deeply’ with ‘partner’ China

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Prime Minister Hun Sen and his New Zealand and Indian counterparts Jacinda Ardern and Narendra Modi pose for a group photo at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Singapore on Wednesday. Roslan RAHMAN/AFP

PM hopes Asean will ‘root deeply’ with ‘partner’ China

At the Asean summit in Singapore on Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he hoped the bloc’s relationship with China would “root deeply”, hailing the Asian power as a “strategic partner”, while its Premier Li Keqiang called for improved trade and “healthier globalisation”.

“Cambodia strongly believes that China is a significant strategic partner of Asean in all circumstances and contexts, and [we] hope that this relationship will root deeply in the spirit of shared interests and sustainable and inclusive development for all nations,” Hun Sen said in front of Li, who he “warmly welcomed” on behalf of the other Asean leaders present at the 21st Asean-China summit.

During the summit, Li called on Asean to work together with China on free trade and maintaining peace in the South China Sea, said Channel NewsAsia.

“China is ready to work with all parties to discuss how we can improve free trade and make globalisation healthier."

“We are also willing to work with others on how we can make trade fairer so that free trade will receive a stronger boost and grow at a higher level. We need to send out a strong message internationally,” Li said.

The prime minister also attended the “informal” Asean-Australia Breakfast Summit and the 20th Asean-South Korea Summit on Wednesday.

Before leaving for Singapore on Tuesday, Sry Thamrong, the Minister attached to Hun Sen, told reporters that the summit and related meetings were hugely important for the leaders to discuss “challenges and find ways to further enhance cooperation”, said the Xinhua News Agency.

The leaders attending the summit are set to discuss the economy, trade, investment, infrastructure development, environmental pollution, cybercrime and terrorism, Thamrong said.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said during the opening ceremony of the Asean summit and related meetings on Tuesday evening that non-traditional and transnational “threats” including terrorism and climate change are dangers looming large on the horizon.

“Terrorism is not just an issue of physical security, but also a grave threat to the delicate multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric of many Asean countries. Climate change is rendering Asean countries vulnerable to rising sea levels because of our long coastlines and low-lying areas,” Lee said.

It is not yet clear whether the leaders of the Asean member states present would discuss human rights in the region during the summit.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pose for a group photo. afp

On Friday, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called on the Asean leaders of to “press” Prime Minister Hun Sen on human rights issues during thesummit.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who is the APHR board chairman, said human rights are “under threat” throughout Southeast Asia and Asean’s “destructive” non-interference principle means that the bloc has been both “unwilling and unable” to take a stand against violations.

Political analyst Meas Nee, told The Post on Wednesday that he did not expect human rights to be brought up at the summit, citing Asean’s “non-interference” policy.

“Therefore, regarding the political situation in the Kingdom, I do not think there will be a statement condemning the Cambodian government."

“I think the government will focus on progress with the other leaders at the summit in order to gain political advantage and show the opposition that [the Cambodian] government [formed after the July 29 national elections] has been recognised [on the international stage],” he said.

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