UK’s Asia minister talks ASEAN relations, duties

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Minister Amanda Milling (left) meets with Environment Minister Say Sam Al on January 11. ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY

British Minister of State for Asia Amanda Milling said she is committed to working closely with Cambodia to address the region’s biggest challenges, while also discussing human rights and meeting with former opposition leader Kem Sokha on her two-day visit.

Milling arrived in Phnom Penh on January 9 in her first visit since the UK became an official dialogue partner of ASEAN, which is currently chaired by Cambodia.

“As a new dialogue partner, we’ve committed to working closely with Cambodia as the 2022 chair of ASEAN to address the region’s biggest challenges, boost trade and offer UK expertise in building back better,” she tweeted on January 11 following a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn.

The British embassy in Phnom Penh said on January 11 that Milling and Sokhonn discussed the UK’s role as a dialogue partner, issues related to human rights, climate change, trade and closer​​​cooperation on shared challenges while Cambodia chairs ASEAN.

Sokhonn said Cambodia and the UK shared many interests and similar visions for development. The two sides touched on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and embracing opportunities to build back better, the Myanmar crisis and human rights protection.

“I took this opportunity to thank the government and people of the UK for their generosity extended to Cambodia through various kinds of support, particularly as evideniced by [Covid-19] vaccine donations.

“ASEAN is eager to work even more closely with the UK, which became ASEAN’s 11th dialogue partner last year,” Sokhonn said in a Facebook after the meeting.

Milling said she had the pleasure of meeting with Sokha, former leader of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), to talk about the current political situation.

“We both want to see a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Cambodia. We discussed the need for human rights to be respected and how the next generation of Cambodians can make an impact,” she tweeted.

Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and Milling also met on January 11 to discuss climate change challenges and the launch of the UK Biodiversity Landscape Fund in order to keep building on the progress made at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

“The UK is a world leader in climate finance and we spoke about opportunities for collaboration on clean, honest and reliable infrastructure,” she tweeted.

The British embassy said the UK supports Cambodia’s efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and is committed to working closely together on prioritising green development for Cambodia and ASEAN.

Milling also spoke to some of Cambodia’s human rights organisations on January 10. She said the UK puts human rights at the heart of everything it does, reiterating the importance of protecting human rights and her government’s support of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Cambodia and Southeast Asia.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, told The Post on January 11 that while Cambodia chairs ASEAN, the UK is looking for an opportunity to discuss a number of issues, including development and boosting business cooperation as well as promoting women’s roles and developing human resources.

He said the two countries have good business and political relations. Milling’s visit comes at a time when Cambodia is preparing for its commune elections, something that probably inspired her meetings with a number of civil society partners to discuss ways to promote sustainable socio-economic and human development in Cambodia and especially respect for human rights.

“Cambodia is the chair of ASEAN and will serve as a bridge between the bloc and the UK on many more topics related to climate change, investment and business and the fight against Covid-19,” he said.