OPINION

AKP Phnom Penh, October 30, 2020 —

In addition to my response to a view expressed by a former diplomat turned academic from one of the ASEAN Member States (on Oct 29, 2020), I wish to share my further view on his proposed expulsion of Cambodia and Laos from ASEAN and his accusations of Cambodia, as follows:

First, calling for the expulsion of any ASEAN Member State could be fully or partially misinterpreted as an insult both to the countries which have been named publicly for expulsion and also to ASEAN as a whole. So one has to be extremely careful for raising such a provocative and unacceptable idea. This is indeed a serious matter.

Second, everyone may have tried to understand the rationale of the person who has called for the expulsion of the ASEAN Member States at this time. Definitely, everyone wanted to know the real intent or the purpose of such calling of expulsion of ASEAN Member States. We may never know the real intent but we could surmise and theorise it in many different ways, and of course it is not a positive contribution to ASEAN in the end. For anyone who supports ASEAN, it is morally indefensible for anyone to even contemplate, let alone raise or propose such an idea in the first place. At this critical juncture of ASEAN, we all need to act in concert to further advance ASEAN’s diplomacy and pivotal role in regional and international affairs, not to engage, both directly and indirectly, in any acts of division, disruption and disunity of ASEAN. Otherwise, what will be the future of ASEAN?

Third, in recent years and more so in recent months, we have seen that ASEAN and its Member States have been proactively engaging in the balancing acts of diplomacy and the enhancement of ASEAN centrality in order to safeguard and maintain regional peace, stability, security and development. For this reason, Cambodia, for its part, has been a positive factor for peace, stability and development in the Mekong subregion, for the ASEAN region, and for the world at large. One should not look at Cambodia through the old or out-of-dated conceptual lenses. In fact, Cambodia has been making positive contributions to the world, such as its participation in the UN peacekeeping operations in the world.

Fourth, with regard to the idea of being a proxy or a pawn to an external player or a superpower, this is again an old concept and it should be entirely dropped from the ASEAN dictionary and thinking. No one and no country wanted to be a proxy or a pawn to any other country! Period. Let us think more of the greater ASEAN integration, ASEAN unity, and ASEAN community. With all of its present and future challenges, ASEAN is still the best hope for our region and for our future generations. Therefore, in the best interests of ASEAN, we should work together harmoniously to strengthen ASEAN and to build the greater ASEAN Community for the ASEAN citizens of more than 630 million peoples as well as for the greater peace, stability and security of this wider region.

Fifth, I wanted to underline and share the fact that I have many wonderful Singaporean friends, such as Ambassador Tommy Koh and Ambassador Peter Ho, just to mention a few. To me, they are the epitome of great Singaporean diplomats, with knowledge, wisdom, friendship and humility. I have always admired and respected them for their true spirit of friendship and humility. Their spirit also reflects the ASEAN spirit of caring and sharing, as we move forward together to build the ASEAN Community for all.

By Dr. Kao Kim Hourn
Minister Attached to the Prime Minister
(Oct. 29, 2020)