Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday asked Asean Secretary-General Le Luong Minh to get to work creating a formal set of principles governing cross-border disaster response in Southeast Asia, noting that no guidelines currently exist to direct such cooperation.
Speaking at the 3rd Asean Ministerial Meeting on Disaster Management at the Hotel Cambodiana in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, Mr. Hun Sen said natural disasters were a regular occurrence in the region, and that while they had been dealt with well so far, further guidelines were needed.
“In brief, although Asean’s member nations have suffered natural disasters almost annually, Asean’s member nations have in the past few years succeeded in conducting cooperative implementation of disaster management,” he said.
The prime minister said that although the 2005 Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Responses was a good start, it lacked clarity on how information should be shared between countries and when forces can cross international borders.
“For example, if there is flooding in Laos, then Laos can give information quickly to Cambodia, so that Cambodia will then be quick in informing Vietnam in order to reduce destruction,” he said, noting that Malaysia, Sin- gapore and Indonesia appeared to have a well-functioning system of cross-border disaster management in place.
“I want and hope that his excellency the secretary-general will write this down to be used as the subject for an Asean summit or a meeting at a different level,” he said.
“A cross-border rescue operation is not an invasion,” he added. “We need to explain to our people to understand this. Otherwise, it will create confusion, [the idea] that the forces are being led to invade a nation.”