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PM calls for collective Asean response to virus pandemic

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen attends the 36th Asean Summit via video conference. KT/Khem Sovannara

Amid the global pandemic Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a “collective response and solidarity” based on multilateralism in the Southeast Asia region to fight the coronavirus.

Mr Hun Sen participated in the 36th Asean Summit on Friday along with nine other regional leaders via video conference, under the theme “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, which was chaired by Vietnam.

Speaking during the plenary session he said it was the first time since its formation 53 years ago, that Asean was conducting the annual summit through video conference due to the pandemic.

He said the virus has brought about a number of challenges including public health safety, disruption in the mobilisation of the global supply chain as well as severe social impacts amid a global economic downturn.

“In this context, the collective responses and solidarity based on multilateralism, especially under the UN framework, is indispensable,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Truly, this is not the time for a blame-game, discrimination, or disengaging allies based on political agenda.”

He said Cambodia fully supports the constitutional mandate of the World Health Organization as the leading and coordinating authority in the global fight against the pandemic.

“At the regional level, we are proud Asean has been relatively successful compared to other regions in the fight against COVID-19.” Mr Hun Sen said.

As of yesterday, there were 143,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Asean nations with more than 80,000 recoveries. Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippine have recorded the most number of cases in the bloc.

In April, regional leaders also held a Special Asean Summit on COVID-19 via video conference and agreed on a number of practical measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis.

“As a future direction, Asean must be strategically well prepared for the post-COVID-19 period. To achieve this goal, Asean should come up with a clear and prudent recovery plan that lays out various scenarios for gradual reopening of cross-border travel within the region, intra-regional trade, and the revival of sectors that are most affected by the crisis.” Mr Hun Sen said.

In his opening speech Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in the context of COVID-19, Asean countries need to uphold the spirit of solidarity, cooperation and a sense of responsibility towards the international community.

“The role and mission of major countries, and of multilateral and regional organisations have become more prominent than ever.” he said.

The Asean Chairman’s Statement released after the meeting said Asean recognised the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic in the region and the world.

“We noted with grave concerns the human cost and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 and reaffirmed our commitment to implementing targeted policies to assure our peoples that Asean is at the forefront of this critical battle and future crises,” it said.

The statement said Asean recalled the successful convening of the Special ASEAN Summit and Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19 via video conference in April.

“We look forward to fostering cross-pillar and cross-sectoral collaboration within Asean as well as renewing commitments for collaboration with relevant stakeholders to ensure a FINAL 4 collective and coordinated regional response to curb the further transmission of COVID-19 and mitigate the multi-faceted impact of this pandemic.” it added.

Additionally, during the meeting Mr Hun Sen also reiterated Cambodia’s full support for Timor-Leste to become a full member of Asean, saying the membership of Timor-Leste will realise the dreams of the bloc’s founding fathers to unite all countries in the Southeast Asian region under the Asean umbrella.

Regarding new developments in the South China Sea, Mr Hun Sen urged relevant parties to focus on restraints and peaceful conflict solution in accordance with the international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Prior to the summit, Cambodia through Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn has reaffirmed Cambodia’s stance over the South China Sea dispute, saying as a non-claimant state the Kingdom would stay “neutral” with regard to the territorial dispute.

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