Thu 31 Mar 2005
Filed under: ASEAN,News
Phnom Penh: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen told his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong during his official visit here Thursday that Cambodia supported Myanmar’s chairing of ASEAN in 2006.
Lee’s one-day visit to the kingdom, part of a swing through Southeast Asia that has also taken in Laos and military-ruled Myanmar, comes as ASEAN debates whether Myanmar should be allowed to take the rotating chair of the grouping.
There has been concern about Myanmar setting ASEAN’s agenda and direction for a year while no tangible democratic reforms are being carried out and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention.
Lee was given a red-carpet welcome by Hun Sen at Phnom Penh’s Pochentong airport and then whisked along a boulevard festooned with Singaporean flags to the Council of Ministers building for talks with his counterpart.
“I raised the position of Cambodia regarding the Myanmar problem, which is the same as I have mentioned before: that Myanmar’s internal affairs should be for Myanmar to solve,” Hun Sen told reporters after talks with Lee.
Hun Sen said last week that he would tell Lee that Cambodia would not back any campaign to block the country from chairing ASEAN, arguing that it would violate the grouping’s policy of non-interference.
The premier said Lee told him Myanmar and Singapore thought similarly on the issue and “want to do whatever possible to avoid scrutinising each other…. If there is scrutinising of each other, there might be no ASEAN meetings”.
According to media reports in Singapore Thursday, Lee told Myanmar’s military leaders Wednesday that political developments in the country could affect the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a whole.
The Straits Times quoted Lee as telling the Myanmar leaders that political reforms in their country were a matter for its people to decide. But he also stressed Singapore’s position that “in an interdependent world, developments in one ASEAN country could impact on ASEAN as a whole”.
The issue is set to be further discussed at a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in the central Philippine island of Cebu in April.
Myanmar, whose membership in the grouping is a growing irritant in relations between ASEAN and western countries, joined ASEAN in 1997, two years ahead of Cambodia. Other members are Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lee is later Thursday due to have a royal audience with Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni, who was crowned last October.
The premier’s regional trip rounds up his introductory visits to Singapore’s fellow ASEAN member states after taking office in August last year.