With Cambodia and Laos as loyal allies of China, Southeast Asia needs a new approach to effective security cooperation. Now, a scandal caused by a retired Singaporean diplomat has opened the door for an overdue debate.
In October, Singapore’s Bilahari Kausikan participated in a public digital round table discussion, where he mentioned the possibility that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might one day be forced to expel Cambodia and Laos due to their close relationship with the People’s Republic of China. From his point of view, both states subordinate their loyalty to fellow ASEAN member states to Chinese interests in the region. In a publication based on the webinar, the former diplomat further states that “neutrality does not mean lying low and hoping for the best.”
While it is no secret that this perception is shared by several ASEAN member states, his statements hit Chinese and Cambodian nerves. Actors from both states quickly rebuffed and harshly condemned his remarks.