December 23, 2022
PHNOM PENH – While the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution urging an end to violence and the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, Cambodia’s foreign minister Prak Sokhonn headed to Thailand for an “Informal Consultation” held to accelerate the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus (5PC).
The UNSC adopted their first resolution on December 22, demanding the release of former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, among other “arbitrarily detained prisoners”.
“Any opportunity for the Security Council to speak with one strong, united voice on any issue and especially on Myanmar would be much welcomed,” UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres was quoted by AFP as saying ahead of the vote.
Twelve out of the 15 member of the UNSC voted in favour of the resolution, while permanent members China and Russia abstained, with Indian also abstaining.
Sokhonn, in his capacity as the ASEAN chair’s special envoy on Myanmar, attended the December 22 informal consultation in Bangkok at the invitation of his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai, said the foreign ministry in a statement.
“During the consultation, the participants expect to engage in frank and candid deliberation on how to accelerate the progress of the implementation of the 5PC,” the ministry said.
Thong Mengdavid, a researcher with the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said Cambodia had earned the trust of Myanmar’s incumbent authorities. This had allowed Sokhonn to visit the country twice already, with the 5PC being discussed with the leaders of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC).
However, Mengdavid noted that the peace-seeking efforts had not gone smoothly. He expected that Sokhonn’s trip to Bangkok would establish the groundwork for next year’s ASEAN chair Indonesia to expand on.
“An informal meeting is a good mechanism for discussing the issue directly, openly and closely. It will also help to avoid tense situations with other ASEAN foreign ministers,” he said, adding that the Myanmar issue is complex due to historical, cultural and religious, factors, as well as interference from outside powers.
Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the informal Bangkok meeting was an opportunity to share recommendations on the 5PC implementation, but nothing more.
It would not, he said, lead to any immediate solution for Myanmar, and several members of the ASEAN bloc would be absent.
“I believe that whatever stems from this meeting will be outside of the ASEAN framework. If the five island nations of the bloc – Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines – abstain from the meeting as reported, this would make the meeting’s outcomes merely recommendations,” he added.
Rim Sokvy, co-founder of think tank The Thinker Cambodia, said the Myanmar crisis has been prolonged due to differences among ASEAN members, along with other complicated issues.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said that despite the Kingdom’s chairmanship coming to an end on December 31, it would continue to push for solutions to all unresolved issues that were based on unanimous ASEAN decisions.
“Cambodia, as a member of ASEAN, will continue the journey with the bloc to find solutions for unsolved issues. We will urge the implementation of all decisions that were made together – both within the ASEAN framework and with individual partners,” he said while inaugurating new infrastructure in Preah Sihanouk province on December 22.
Hun Sen said he was delighted that Cambodia had received votes of confidence from the international community for its successful organisation of the recent ASEAN Summit and related meetings with world powers.
The premier recently returned from Brussels, Belgium, where he held talks with EU leaders at the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit marking 45 years of dialogue partnership. He said the EU has become a close partner of ASEAN, and the two blocs are working towards a free-trade agreement.
With Cambodia’s time as ASEAN chair over in roughly one week, he raised many of what it had achieved in its one-year tenure, despite heated regional and global issues.
He said the prestige the Kingdom had drawn from the ASEAN Summit was partially due to the fact that the event was one of the first post-Covid-19 global meetings. It had only been possible because of Cambodia’s successful control of the pandemic, and its subsequent reopening.
“The safety of many world leaders and the ASEAN heads of state was entrusted to Cambodia, and we did not betray that trust,” he said.
“A total of 101 documents were approved, but if the documents from the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting were included, the total would be over 130. This was no small feat,” he added.
Hun Sen recalled that in 2012, he was the ASEAN chair who began negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The agreement went into effect on January 1 this year.
“We also worked hard to facilitate the inclusion of Timor-Leste as the 11th member of ASEAN. Although it has not yet achieved full-member status, Timor-Leste now has the right to attend meetings,” he said.
The prime minister extended his thanks to his compatriots for their cooperation in the smooth running of the summits, and offered his sincere appreciation to Sokhonn for successfully managing the meetings.