New PM Calls for Stronger Security and Trade Ties with ASEAN Partners

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Manet speaks during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Jakarta on September 4, 2023. Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

PHNOM PENH – The new government head Hun Manet has pledged to work with ASEAN to maintain regional and global security, committing to conform to international rules and promote regional trade.

“As the new prime minister of Cambodia, I would like to assure that Cambodia continues to be committed to the multilateral system, rule-based international order and [the] principle of non-interference, in order to protect and promote peace both at home and in the world,” PM Hun Manet said on Sept. 4 during the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit (ABIS) 2023 in Jakarta.

The premier is attending the 43rd ASEAN Summit taking place in Jakarta until Sept. 7, under the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth” with a focus on advancing the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.

The event marks Hun Manet’s international debut two weeks after he took office on Aug. 22.

On Sept. 4, he met Indonesian President and ASEAN Chair Joko Widodo and Secretary General of the regional bloc Kao Kim Hourn.

In a ten-minute speech that he gave in English, Hun Manet addressed global challenges such as geopolitical rivalry between the major powers, regional-global economy and trade, the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing disruption of the supply chain.

He also highlighted some of Cambodia’s contributions to peace, both at the regional and global levels, recalling the country assumed the ASEAN chairmanship in 2022.

Last November at the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits in Phnom Penh, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba signed the Treaty on Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) in a move to put peace at the center of its relationship with the regional bloc and to isolate Russia on the international level.

Hun Manet also shared the positive outcomes of the “win-win” policy implemented by his father Hun Sen to bring Cambodia’s civil war to an end at the end of the 1990s, arguing these lessons learned by Cambodia could be helpful to Myanmar, which is engulfed in a bloody civil war since the 2021 military coup.

“We strongly believe that war cannot [be ended] by war. True peace and prosperity would only stem from peaceful settlement of conflicts through dialogue and consultation based on a win-win approach,” said Manet.

He said ASEAN and international communities must be against the use of threats and forces against a sovereign state and adhere to the spirit of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, equality and non-interference, stipulated in the ASEAN and UN Charter.

At the summit, the seat for Myanmar remained empty, as military representatives have been prevented from attending major ASEAN events since they unlawfully seized power.

Placing importance on trade

“In the current regional and global context, to achieve common prosperity, it is imperative that the strengthening and the deepening of ASEAN Economic Integration further contribute to narrowing the development gap within ASEAN itself,” Hun Manet said.

He suggested ASEAN must work towards a forward-looking ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement upgrade, and utilize the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to boost trade in the Indo-Pacific.

This massive free-trade agreement came into force in January 2022 and grants tax incentives to the 10 ASEAN nations, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Hun Manet also called on ASEAN stakeholders to accelerate digital transformation, increase the participation of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the formal economy, and adapt to emerging issues.

“Taking this opportunity, I would like to emphasize the importance the Royal Government places on the essential role of the private sector in contributing to Cambodia's remarkable prosperity,” he stated.

He continued that Cambodia prioritizes improving the business and investment climate through the adoption of laws and free-trade agreements, stressing the importance of his newly launched “Pentagonal Strategy.”

“We will work closely with all ASEAN member states as well as private sectors to foster inclusivity, peace, and prosperity in the region and beyond,” said Hun Manet.

“Cambodia stands ready to welcome all prospective investors to the Kingdom, where opportunities are abundant.”

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