Thu, May 26, 2022

international

Cambodia faces ASEAN discord as term begins


Cambodia has begun its year-long ASEAN chairmanship with the postponement of a high-level meeting amid a polarizing debate over Myanmars representation in ASEAN, nearly a year since a military coup brought protracted instability to the country.

While Cambodia initially expressed confidence that it would be the first country to host an in-person ASEAN meeting since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, the country announced last week that it had postponed the foreign ministerial retreat, ostensibly because a number of ministers would have been unable to travel to the venue.  

 

The ASEAN foreign ministerial retreat is usually held at the beginning of the year in an informal setting to allow the ministers to have frank discussions and set the tone for the rest of the year.  

The meeting was slated to be held on Jan. 18 and 19 in the city of Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, but several ministers said they would be unable to attend, including Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who said he would skip the meeting because he had to attend a session of parliament the next day.  

 

The Foreign Ministry’s director general for Asian, Pacific and African affairs, Abdul Kadir Jailani, said Indonesia could understand the postponement, considering the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region amid the spread of the Omicron variant.  

“At the same time, we must also admit that within ASEAN, there are different perspectives that need to be consolidated. We need to have a common perspective regarding the issue of invitations to representatives of Myanmar,” he told reporters recently.  

 

At the previous ASEAN Summit, hosted virtually by Brunei Darussalam in October of last year, member states agreed that in the absence of progress, Myanmar should be represented by officials at the “nonpolitical” level.

 

 “We have to admit that even though this has been going on for a year, there has not been much progress on the ground,” Kadir said.
 

Published : January 17, 2022