Cambodia and ASEAN: Maintaining Cooperation, Building Confidence

Kicking Cambodia out of ASEAN would be neither an effective nor a practical solution to the bloc’s challenges.

Cambodia’s future in ASEAN has become a topic of debate once more due to recent commentary arguing that the kingdom’s position in Southeast Asia’s leading multilateral institution has been compromised owing to its relationship with China. Some have even argued that it might be time for Cambodia to be excluded from ASEAN in light of its mooted role as a “proxy state.” We reject this contention.

ASEAN is structured around three pillars: the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). ASEAN’s Political Security Blueprint has defined the framework for cooperation in political-security development across the region, and it has served as a crucial means of offsetting risks and uncertainties. On the political-security front, Cambodia has indeed scored relatively low in comparison to other states. However, that score does not tell the entire story of Cambodia’s security history in ASEAN. After all it was Phnom Penh that in 2008 and 2011, when confronting the dispute over Preah Vihear temple, sought ASEAN’s intervention, while Bangkok opted for bilateral negotiation.

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