Prime Minister Hun Sen threw his support behind Burma’s ruling military junta Wednesday, saying Cambodia will not join the Asia-Europe Meeting scheduled later this year if Europe continues to press for Burma’s exclusion.
Hun Sen accused the European Union of “taking advantage” by allowing its 10 new member states to join this year’s ASEM, while urging that Burma be barred.
The informal talks between Asian and European countries, scheduled to take place in Hanoi in October, were supposed to include Cambodia, Burma and Laos for the first time since the three countries joined Asean.
EU leaders, however, are seeking to block Burma’s entry in protest of the country’s deplorable human rights and democracy record.
“Cambodia must make a sacrifice,” Hun Sen said at a conference held by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace.
If the three new Asean countries cannot enter the ASEM at the same time, “Cambodia will not join,” he said.
Hun Sen added: “Cambodia takes a step backward today. My opinion is that inviting Burma to sit together with us is better than leaving Burma alone…. We say ‘integration, integration and globalization,’ but to leave one country in the corner is not fair.”
Laotian Ambassador Thouane Vorasarn echoed Hun Sen’s sentiments Wednesday, saying Laos, too, will boycott the meeting if Burma is not allowed to join.
“We are waiting for the three countries to join together,” Vorasarn said by telephone. Participation in the Asian-European summit is important because “we need Asean to be together to negotiate with the European countries,” he added.
The rift between Asean and the EU has some observers speculating this year’s summit may be canceled. But the EU “will continue to try to find a way to arrive at a solution which respects the concerns of both sides,” said one local diplomat, who declined to be named.
The EU has no problem with Cambodia and Laos participating in the summit, the diplomat said. But “we have a policy that does not allow us to cooperate with Burma,” the diplomat added.
Though Hun Sen said Cambodia doesn’t support “any actions that are violations of human rights,” he affirmed Cambodia’s solidarity with Burma’s dictatorship.
Hun Sen also defended the rights of small countries to act independently of larger nations, in a speech reminiscent of his defense of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 after Milosevic’s fall from power.
At the time, Hun Sen had voiced support for Milosevic, saying small countries should stick together against world powers. Milosevic is on trial at The Hague, the Netherlands, for war crimes.