Since becoming a member of ASEAN in 1999, Cambodia has chaired two previous ASEAN summits – in 2002 and in 2012. The Kingdom is currently hosting its third summit from November 10-13.
Although Cambodia is a small country, it has been able to negotiate with many powerful nations over contentious issues related to South China Sea, Korean Peninsula, Myanmar crisis and Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Despite some turbulence recent years, Cambodia has used ASEAN forum to realise economic gains for the region by moving free trade deals forward such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Puy Kea, a correspondent for the Kyodo News Agency, said Cambodia’s role as ASEAN chair raised the Kingdom’s international image as it is acting as a representative for the entire ASEAN region through other forums.
He said Cambodia has played an important role as a mediator in the internal conflicts of member states, such as the crisis in Myanmar, and now has the opportunity to take its seat next to the US as the co-chair of the ASEAN-US summit. Even US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has praised Cambodia and commended it on its leadership of ASEAN this year.
Kea added that through its chairmanship of ASEAN, Cambodia was invited to chair the ASEAN emergency foreign ministers’ meeting about Myanmar crisis which held in Indonesia, Jakarta at end of October. Cambodia has also been invited to attend the upcoming G-20 Plenary Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, where it will be able to make its own statements.
Vann Bunna, a researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), said Cambodia successful negotiate on the South China Sea by issuing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which is a precursor to establishing the Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea.
He sees three positive aspects of Cambodia being in ASEAN: Foreign policy, economic gain and the strengthening of diplomatic capacity.
First, Cambodia has the ability to sit and talk with the powerful countries in the region and the world with equal footing.
Second, Cambodia can use the ASEAN forum to make free trade agreements for the bloc like, most recently, the RCEP.
Third, Cambodia can build and strengthen its diplomatic capabilities to keep pace with crises and the ever-changing global situation.