Cambodia not at fault over joint communique
Re: Cambodia demeans the Asean chair, Letters, July 22.
I wish to respond to the letter by Vint Chavala. I already explained quite clearly why the 45th Asean Ministers Meeting could not conclude with a joint communiqué, in my letter of July 17, responding to a similar misperceived critical view in an article entitled "Cambodia has put Asean's future in jeopardy" published in The Nation on July 15. Mr Chavala should refer to my July 17 response.
If a person were fair, he or she would agree that the letter's headline should have been "Two Asean members demean the Asean chair", for the following reasons:
First, the Asean foreign ministers' July 20 statement of principles on the South China Sea makes no direct reference to any bilateral dispute at all. During several restricted meetings, Cambodia had proposed exactly this position, albeit without the six points delineated by the ministers. Cambodia's proposal was accepted by all ministers except those of the two member states that are having territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Second, these two countries made inclusion of a direct reference to those disputes a sine qua non for their endorsement of any joint communiqué. Their unyielding position was that they would not allow a joint communiqué if their demands were not satisfied. It is quite clear who is responsible for "destabilising" Asean, to use Mr Chavala's term.
It is true that, for the first time in its 45-year history, the AMM failed to produce a joint communiqué. However, one must also acknowledge that for this was also the first time two member states "hijacked" the meeting and made the joint communiqué a hostage to their bilateral disputes.
Until this year the Asean way has always been to put aside any issue that lacks a consensus. Therefore it was unprecedented that two member states imposed such an ultimatum to block issuance of the communiqué.
As the Asean chair, Cambodia honoured its duty to try and prevent the dispute from getting out of hand. In fact, Cambodia's intention is to leave the door open for future talks by countries concerned. It believes there is no better avenue than to defuse tension and find a peaceful and amicable settlement to the disputes. As chair, Cambodia does not want to add fuel to the fire.
I hope the above clarification once again is sufficient to understand the root cause of the trouble at the AMM and put an end to the present polemic, which I do not wish to continue any further. A few years ago a similar insane mud-slinging war of words against Cambodia published in newspapers inflamed an already tense situation, leading to armed conflict at the Thai border.
Madam You Ay
Cambodian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand