Cambodia’s reputation in regional and international affairs has long preceded Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent trip to Myanmar. Indeed, to be fair, the two-day visit was an ice breaker to create much-needed space for all the Asean 10 to get together once again.
Due to the 2012 incident during Cambodia’s second Asean chair, he has to carry this heavy burden throughout the coming 12 months to assure the grouping that he is acting in good faith and most importantly on Asean’s behalf and the regional interest. It will not be easy. Frankly speaking, except for a few countries, others do not want to see Hun Sen succeed in his unconventional approach. Deep down they hope he fails to reinforce the narratives that Cambodia can be trusted and that it is not acting on behalf of foreign interests.
The Asean chair has recently announced a lengthy to-do list for the rest of the year comprising four clusters of key challenges, namely the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery from its impacts; the impacts from the superpowers’ rivalries; existing cross-border issues such as the Myanmar crisis and the South China Sea conflict, transnational crime and terrorism; and finally Asean internal and institutional challenges. In addition, there are numerous issues related to all three pillars of the Asean Community that need to be assessed and strengthened. These agenda items will keep the chair busy.