Relaying the ASEAN baton from Cambodia to Indonesia

Cambodia assumed the ASEAN chair in 2022 with the theme ‘ASEAN ACT: Addressing Challenges Together’. Act, it certainly did. The chair started with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s high-profile visit to Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw in January. But Myanmar’s problems proved difficult to crack — even with a leader typically sympathetic to enforcing state control.

2022 quickly spiralled with challenging international crises beyond ASEAN’s control. To Cambodia’s credit, ASEAN deftly steered itself through politically turbulent waters. The war in Ukraine saw divergent positions of member states as ASEAN came under intense pressure for its weak stance on Ukraine.

ASEAN eventually released the ASEAN–EU commemorative statement — in which ‘most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine’. Despite its perceived closeness with Russia and China, Cambodia’s national position evolved from refusing to take sides to Hun Sen taking a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

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