At its Foreign Ministers Meeting in July 2012, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to issue a joint statement for the first time in the bloc’s 45-year history. The failure was blamed on the actions of the bloc’s chair, Cambodia, which moved to block mild criticisms of China’s aggression in the South China Sea. Phnom Penh’s intervention subsequently tarnished the Kingdom’s international image, prompting some to call for Cambodia’s expulsion from the Southeast Asian bloc.
Ten years later, as Cambodia gears up to assume a challenging chairmanship next year, memories of the 2012 mishap remain vivid. ASEAN’s agenda for 2022 is likely to include a range of important issues, including post-COVID-19 economy recovery and climate change. Other less major items could include Timor-Leste’s ASEAN member application and the United Kingdom’s request to become a full dialogue partner of ASEAN.
But for now, most attention will be on how Cambodia leads ASEAN in resolving the political crisis in Myanmar, and deals with negotiations with China on a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea.