Cambodia calls for solidarity at summit

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn during the virtual special ASEAN-US summit. FOREIGN MINISTY

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn called on the US to contribute to ASEAN’s efforts to end the Covid-19 pandemic, believing the ASEAN-US strategic partnership would “significantly” benefit the ASEAN community, including Cambodia.

Sokhonn made the remarks at the special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, held virtually on July 14.

Sokhonn was quoted as saying in the ministry’s press release that vaccine multilateralism and equal access to affordable and efficient vaccines was of vital importance.

“[Sokhonn] expressed confidence that the enhanced ASEAN-US partnership will significantly benefit ASEAN community building efforts,” the press release said.

Asian Vision Institute president Chheang Vannarith told The Post on July 14 that Covid-19 fight and post-pandemic socio-economic recovery are the key agenda items within ASEAN currently.

Adding more dialogue partners – including the US – will be crucial for implementing a comprehensive regional recovery plan, Vannarith said.

“Cambodia has been consistently and persistently urging international solidarity and the promotion of multilateralism in dealing with the pandemic,” he said.

Inclusive and equitable immunisation is critical to combat the pandemic in the global south. It requires that developed nations do far more than they currently are in terms of vaccines production and distribution to that part of the world, Vannarith said.

Sokhonn also expressed concerns on issues related to political security. He said the complexity of the challenges arising from geopolitical competition is increasing – including tech and trade wars, climate change issues and other threats.

He called on all parties involved in these conflicts to continue efforts to promote and protect human rights and democracy, while pointing out the need to recognise that one size does not fit all when it comes to forms of government.

Regarding the South China Sea issue which was also brought up at the summit, Sokhonn asked all parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to avoid further escalation of the situation and to seek a peaceful solution to their disputes by following international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“Efforts should be focused on expediting the conclusion of a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea and full implementation of the agreed measures to maintain peace, stability, and security in the region,” he said.

Speaking about the ongoing Myanmar crisis, Sokhonn said Cambodia remains committed to the principle of non-inference while recognising the indisputable need for peace, stability and prosperity in Myanmar for the region’s stability and the furtherance of ASEAN community building.

He called attention to the ASEAN Leaders’ five-point consensus reached on April 24 this year and ASEAN’s political will that is strongly in favour of supporting a peaceful solution through dialogue.

According to the foreign ministry, the ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to strengthen ASEAN-US cooperation against the Covid-19 pandemic to mitigate its impacts, engender a speedy socio-economic recovery and develop resilience against future health-related crises.

“ASEAN welcomed the US’ contribution to ASEAN Covid-19 initiatives, including the ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund and ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework,” it said.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who attended the summit, highlighted the US’ role as the largest single donor to the World Health Organisation-led Covax Facility and its support to the region in the fight against Covid-19.

He said the US had contributed $112 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to ASEAN countries since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a US State Department press release.