Cambodia’s parliamentary diplomacy has attracted public attention, especially since early this year, as leaders of the National Assembly have taken a more active international role in promoting parliamentary dialogues and consultation on regional and global issues of common concern.
The Cambodian Parliament has been actively engaging with multilateral fora such the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), the Asia Parliamentary Assembly (APA), the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP), the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie, and recently the Meeting of Speakers of Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments (MSEAP).
Early this year, the Cambodian parliament hosted the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APFF), attended the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) in Thailand and the Meeting of Speakers of the Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments (MSEAP) in Kazashstan.
President of the National Assembly, Samdech Heng Samrin, just led a big delegation to attend the 4th MSEAP in Kazakhstan. The MSEAP was first held in 2016 in Moscow. It was initiated by the Republic of Korea with the help of the State Duma of Russia Federal.
The 4th MSEAP consists of countries from both Europe and Asia continents as well as representatives from the inter-parliamentary organization. Although this is relatively a newly established forum, it has gained support from major countries such as Russia, China and India.
The membership has gradually increased over the years. Now nine ASEAN member parliaments are the members of MSEAP. This reflects the significant role of the MSEAP on inter-parliamentary diplomacy to further promote inter-regional cooperation to achieve better economic coordination, and to prevent any potential setback from rising protectionism and unilateralism being implemented by the United States.
The four plenary sessions of the 4th MSEAP discussed the strengthening of peace and stability in the region, countering extremism and terrorism, development of dialogue of civilizations and cultures, innovative development of economies, digitalization and solving social problems.
Parallel to the meeting’s theme, Samdech President of the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia underlined the role of parliamentary diplomacy in global governance and international cooperation, which helps to ensure sustainable peace and shared prosperity. With this regard, Samdech President also highlighted the essence of the inclusive economic development regardless of its economic size or political system, and rules-based multilateralism system that helps to secure a future of harmony and prosperity.
The 4th MSEAP meeting is a great opportunity for Cambodia to extend its parliamentary diplomacy across the region, and to reiterate the Kingdom’s foreign policy of independence, neutrality, and diversification.
Cambodia’s international image has been affected by some Western media and analysts that simply label Cambodia as a client state of China. Such simplicity and bias have misled public opinion and even some policy makers.
Cambodia’s image has also been shaped by the dark history, especially the Khmer Rouge regime, and landmines. To correct such widespread misperception, it is imperative for Cambodia, especially the Members of Parliament, to proactively engage with international community and explain them the realities of Cambodia.
More explaining missions at all levels and across sectors are needed to bring a true image and perception of the Kingdom. Cambodia is now one of the most robust emerging economies in Southeast Asia. Over the past two decades, it has enjoyed an annual average growth rate of more than 7 percent. Peace and stability prevail. Democracy is thriving. Human rights are gradually improving.
Cambodian delegates will attend the annual General Assembly of IPU next month. The key theme of the meeting focuses on the importance of international law and the role of parliament. It will be a good opportunity for Cambodia to reaffirm its international commitment towards building a rules-based international order and strengthening an open and inclusive multilateral system.
Cambodia’s parliament is preparing itself to host another major even of the upcoming 13th ASEP in 2020. By actively hosting such events, it helps to rebuild the image of Cambodia as a peaceful country with full national unity, political stability as well as economic development.
Through these platforms, Cambodia could contribute more to promote international dialogue and cooperation. Dialogue is critical to trust building and partnership formation. The Cambodian parliament has invested its resources and efforts in parliamentary diplomacy for the sake of world peace and prosperity.
With the current momentum of parliamentary diplomacy, it is essential for the parliament of Cambodia to keep on expanding its capacity through research and development in order to have more substantive contributions to international cooperation to address regional and global issues.
Capacity building on foreign policy and global affairs is critical for the future of Cambodia’s parliamentary diplomacy.
Ratanak Prom is a PhD Candidate in International Relations at Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China.