Senior defence ministry officials from the 10 ASEAN member states and ASEAN Plus countries pledged to promote military cooperation on preventing cross-border epidemics, as well as to promote mechanisms that will support ASEAN women peacekeepers.

The pledges came during the April 20-21 ASEAN Defence Senior Officials’ Meeting Working Group (ADSOM WG) and the ADSOM-Plus WG via video conference hosted by the Cambodian Ministry of National Defence’s General Department of Politics and Foreign Affairs.

Both meetings were chaired by Lay Chenda – deputy head of the general department – with the participation of working groups from each participating defence ministry, along with ASEAN Secretariat officials, under the theme “Solidarity for Harmonious Security”.

“The meeting approved three conceptual documents initiated by Cambodia with the aim of promoting defense cooperation among ASEAN member states,” said an April 21 press release from the defence ministry.

The documents include enhanced military cooperation among ASEAN members to prevent cross-border epidemics, promoting support mechanisms for female peacekeepers, and establishing cooperation among military educational institutions, it said.

It added that two discussion papers initiated by Cambodia were also approved at the meetings. The first propsed the establishment of links between the Southeast Asia Maritime Law Enforcement Initiative and the ADSOM-Plus. The second reflected on understanding military history to promote sustainable peace.

The meeting also approved a draft joint declaration of the ASEAN Defence Ministers, it said.

The meeting also approved preparations for an unofficial meeting between the defence ministers of ASEAN and ASEAN Plus nations in 2022, with the decision to select four countries –two at the time of the meeting and two at the time of the accompanying retreat.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post on April 21 that joint cooperation and efforts between all countries in the region are important to fight cross-border epidemics.

He said sharing experiences and information related to epidemic issues is also important, adding: “Helping each other and providing mutual support in the fight against epidemics is crucial.”

In a seperate April 20 meeting, Eat Sophea – secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Cambodia’s senior ASEAN official – chaired a joint consultative senior officials’meeting to discuss an update of ASEAN priorities and the progress of deliverables in 2022, along with ASEAN connectivity.

The ministry announced in an April 21 social media post that the meeting also deliberated on ASEAN partnerships with dialogue and development partners, as well as procedures for ASEAN responses to emergencies and disasters.

Representatives from the education and commerce ministries briefed the meeting on the progress of Cambodia’d deliverables under the ASEAN socio-cultural and economic community pillars.

Ahead of the meeting, she also led a meeting of the ASEAN coordinating council working group on public health emergencies.

The meeting discussed updates in the implementation of ASEAN key initiatives in its Covid-19 response.