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Hun Sen, Lee agree not to open ‘old wounds’

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen meets with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong in Bangkok. Yuta Kun

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong yesterday agreed “not to scratch old wounds” following a diplomatic spat over comments made by the latter last month.

Both prime ministers, along with Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan, held talks on the sidelines of the 34th Asean Summit in Bangkok.

Mr Sokhonn said in a statement that both leaders agreed not to revisit old issues to hurt ties between the two countries, following the spat which was sparked by Mr Lee’s comments that Vietnamese troops had invaded Cambodia to topple the Khmer Rouge regime.

“During the meeting, both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong viewed the spat as a nightmare in bilateral relationship,” he said. “Both countries since the beginning have had a good relationship.”

Mr Sokhonn said Cambodia was the first nation to recognise Singapore’s independence after it split from Malaysia and both countries have strengthened the relationship.

“Both leaders recognised there are differing views on events that happened in the past and none can correct things that happened in the past,” he said. “However, it is very important that we consider the past as an ‘old wound’ and do not scratch it and make it painful.”

Before returning to the Kingdom yesterday, Mr Hun Sen also highlighted Cambodia’s achievements after becoming an Asean member for two decades, saying the country has maintained peace and stability.

This year’s Asean summit was held under the theme “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability” and the discussions focused on promoting cooperation and strengthening consensus among member states with the goal of addressing new global challenges.

Speaking to Asean leaders yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said that since joining Asean in 1999, Cambodia fulfilled its obligation as a member by maintaining peace and stability.

“This year is the 20th anniversary of Cambodia becoming an Asean member,” he noted. “Cambodia respects the principles and obligations of an Asean member, especially our participation to maintain peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region.”

He also called on Asean leaders to push for stronger trade within the bloc, and also noted that the Asean Regional Mine Action Centre will be located in the Kingdom and will play an important role in regional demining efforts.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said that the discussion between the two prime ministers was “quiet diplomacy” to avoid confrontation between the nations.

“Calling the Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge an invasion has always been very irritating for the Cambodian Prime Minister,” he said.

Mr Lee told reporters yesterday that he met with Mr Hun Sen and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, noting they discussed his comments.

“He [Hun Sen] had the same view that ‘you are not going to convince me of your perspective, I am not going to convince you of my perspective, but we should move forward,’” he said, according to The Straits Times.

“I think we have a mutual understanding. It is helpful for us to understand where each other stands, rather than to gloss over and pretend that there is no issue whatsoever.”

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