Australia has reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening relations with Cambodia in the fight against Covid-19 as the Kingdom will chair ASEAN in 2022.
The pledge was made during a phone conservation between Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn and his Australian counterpart Marise Payne.
“Marise Payne reiterated Australia’s commitment to enhance cooperation with Cambodia and ASEAN in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The two ministers discussed in depth enhancing bilateral relations and cooperation,” the Cambodian foreign ministry said in a press release on July 7.
Payne also confirmed in a Facebook post on July 7 that she spoke with Sokhonn about shared concerns regarding the crisis in Myanmar and the challenges posed by Covid-19.
“I emphasised Australia’s support for ASEAN and its Myanmar response and we discussed the urgent need for progress on ASEAN’s five points of consensus,” she said.
Australia supports Cambodia’s Covid-19 response and recovery and will provide $35.7 million to assist in procuring and delivering vaccines. Australia also has a long-standing interest in Cambodia’s development and democracy.
“I look forward to working closely with Minister Prak Sokhonn in the lead-up to Cambodia taking on the ASEAN 2022 chair,” she said.
According to the foreign ministry, Payne also emphasised Australia’s wish to strengthen the ASEAN-Australia partnership and reaffirmed continued support for ASEAN’s importance in regional architecture and integration.
Sokhonn thanked Australia for contributing to Cambodia’s socio-economic development at the bilateral, regional and sub-regional levels.
He said Australia has provided timely support to Cambodia and ASEAN in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Australia’s growing engagement with ASEAN will further contribute to economic growth, regional integration and narrowing the development gap within the region,” he said.
The minister reiterated Cambodia’s determination to achieve good results as ASEAN chair.
He shared some of the priorities for next year, which include more progress in implementing ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery initiatives and regional integration in line with ASEAN Community Vision.
Sokhonn reiterated Cambodia’s readiness to work with other ASEAN member states and partners to coordinate Myanmar’s return to the path of democratic transition and normalcy.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on July 8 that Australia’s foreign policy toward Cambodia had not changed much despite some changes to international situations. In relation to Cambodia, Australia’s political position was not very different to the US.
He said that recently Australia’s diplomacy seemed softer and it has expressed goodwill to strengthen bilateral relations.
“For example, the fight against Covid-19, human rights and democracy – mostly [Australia] makes institutional rather than critical contributions.
“However, as Cambodia will chair ASEAN next year, the country will have an important role to play. We have seen other countries expressing goodwill to strengthen the bonds of friendship with Cambodia too,” he noted.