The UK announced it will commit £4.8 million ($6.2 million) towards strengthening national health systems and Covid-19 prevention in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
The pledge was made during a virtual meeting between ASEAN foreign ministers and UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab on Wednesday.
The meeting shared mutual concern about the spread of coronavirus and its adverse impacts on livelihoods and socio-economic development around the world.
In a press release, ASEAN member states expressed the need to strengthen cooperation between the bloc and the UK in the areas of research, development, and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and treatment, adhering to the objectives of efficiency, safety, equal accessibility and affordability.
Issued by Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the press release said ASEAN encouraged the UK to support and contribute to the regional reserve of medical supplies to enable rapid response to emergency medical supply needs.
Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn also reaffirmed Cambodia’s support to the UK’s application for dialogue partner status and told the meeting the two sides can work on a parallel track with trade and investment cooperation.
“[Sokhonn] expressed optimism the UK will contribute to timely access to a safe and affordable vaccine,” the press release said.
During the meeting, the UK also announced a contribution of £1 million ($1.28 million) to the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund and £500,000 in strategic support to the ASEAN Secretariat to develop and deliver effective policies to mitigate the economic impacts of Covid-19.
Sokhonn suggested the possibility of exploring innovative approaches to maintain open international supply chains and safe travel corridors to ensure the flow of trade and investments between the UK and ASEAN.
Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun said UK monetary aid to Southeast Asia and Cambodia showed a gesture of generosity.
“These resources can help Cambodia and other countries contain the spread of Covid-19 and address the challenges,” he said.
Kin Phea, the director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the meeting was productive.
“It is an important diplomatic passage for ASEAN member countries to better relations with the UK. We already know the UK is a large market in Europe. Obviously, Cambodia’s exports of clothes to Europe is bound for the UK,” he said.