Could ASEAN Really Cut Laos and Cambodia Loose?

The suggestion by a retired Singaporean diplomat has made waves among Southeast Asia watchers – but is it likely to happen?

On October 23, Bilahari Kausikan, the former permanent secretary of the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, took part in a roundtable webinar organized by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. As part of the event, the ex-diplomat gave a talk on Southeast Asia’s future in an age of increasing great power competition.

Kausikan’s comments prompted a minor controversy when he suggested, almost as an aside, that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might one day be forced to expel Cambodia and Laos, two small nations that have become firmly ensconced in China’s economic and strategic orbit.

In his remarks, an edited excerpt of which was later published in article form, Kausikan pointed to the nations’ lack of engagement in the South China Sea controversy – or in Cambodia’s case, its active undermining of the regional consensus on the disputes at an ASEAN meeting in 2012.

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