Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said he suggested to US Secretary of State John Kerry that Cambodia deserved an apology for the criticism it faced for its chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012, when the bloc, for the first time in its history, failed to release a joint communiqué due to disagreements over the c dispute.
The premier relayed details of his meeting with Kerry, who visited Cambodia last month, at a speech to university students yesterday on Koh Pich.
Hun Sen told the crowd that he asserted Cambodia’s neutrality in the geopolitical tug-of-war between the US and China, the Kingdom’s largest foreign investor, before airing his grievances over the 2012 backlash, when Cambodia was accused of blocking the joint-ASEAN statement to appease China. “I told John Kerry that it is an appropriate time to render justice regarding the South China Sea in 2012,” Hun Sen said
“I told John Kerry that I am upset, that [it was said] that the CoC [Code of Conduct on the South China Sea] was not released because Cambodia is too close to China,” he continued, referencing the joint-statement, which included mentions of the CoC.
He later asked rhetorically: “Should the ones who used to attack me in the past apologise or not?”
Lobbying by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to include references to the ongoing maritime dispute in the 2012 joint statement were met with strong resistance by Hor Namhong, according to academic Carl Thayer, referencing notes leaked from the meeting.
“Cambodia did not play an honest broker role as chair – they adopted a position unilaterally,” Thayer said, adding that Cambodia was the only ASEAN member to insist the bloc has no role to play in the dispute, a position that benefits China.
A recent US State Department briefing memo said the 2012 fiasco left a “black mark” on ASEAN.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton.