Asean to restore back to 10-members before looking at 11th: Cambodia

Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn said that restoring Asean would require sorting out Myanmar’s issues with representation at its meetings.

Ry Sochan

Ry Sochan

The Phnom Penh Post


Foreign affairs minister Prak Sokhonn holds press conference on Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship priorities. Heng Chivoan

December 31, 2021

Cambodia has pledged to lobby Myanmar to soften its stance and moving towards adoption of the ASEAN five-point consensus in a bid to restore ASEAN unity, while also committing to lobbying East Timor to become the bloc’s 11th member state.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn revealed the plans during a press conference on Cambodia’s priorities as ASEAN chair in 2022 to the diplomatic corps and journalists on December 29.

“We are working hard at lobbying Myanmar to show it is softening and will move forward with the practice of the ASEAN leaders’ five-point consensus.

“Before discussing the 11th ASEAN member, we need to talk about restoring ASEAN back to a 10-member bloc first. When we have restored ASEAN to 10 members again, we will continue the campaign to make [East Timor] the 11th ASEAN member.

“It is necessary to bring the current nine-member ASEAN back to 10 because we cannot keep having meetings attended by only nine out of 10 members,” he said.

Sokhonn said that restoring ASEAN would require sorting out Myanmar’s issues dealing with ASEAN representation at its meetings. He explained that the ASEAN Charter does not stipulate how the legitimate representatives of ASEAN member states are to be determined for the purposes of attendance at meetings.

Regarding the latest entry to ASEAN, he said Cambodia has taken the lead in supporting East Timor to become a new member, while the half-island nation itself is striving towards that goal by establishing its embassies in all ASEAN member countries despite its limited resources.

According to Sokhonn, East Timor’s candidacy will be based on the procedures set forth in the ASEAN Charter, including an assessment of its readiness to join the bloc.

He said this assessment is made through a fact-finding mission based on the three pillars of ASEAN: political-security cooperation, economic cooperation and socio-cultural cooperation.

He noted that while the first pillar – political security – has been assessed, the other two have not been examined yet due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Now we hope that next year it will be possible to carry out this mission to [East Timor] and make an assessment as soon as possible. Then we will submit it to the ASEAN Secretariat for review in order for the top leadership to make a decision,” he said.

Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told The Post on December 30 that Sokhonn’s statements are an expression of Cambodia’s ambition as the chair of ASEAN to take the initiative and lead ASEAN to unity, stability and growth for the benefit of the region and to enhance the Kingdom’s image.

It will also be the pride of Cambodia and a proud day for the Cambodian people if what Sokhonn proposes can be achieved, he added.

“Therefore, I think the outcome here is still questionable because the crisis in Myanmar is complex and deeply intertwined with the interests of these greater military powers and the outcome will impact the regional geopolitical game of chess that those powers are playing,” he said.

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