Hun Sen: Enough On South China Sea

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The Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, has once again called for countries outside the Asean region to cease their interference in the dispute over the South China Sea and stop using it as a bargaining chip or hostage at regional and international meetings.
The statement was made after a diplomat from “one of the power countries outside the region” lobbied member states of the Asean bloc to jointly support the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague when it releases its verdict on a complaint filed by the Philippines against China over a territorial dispute within the sea.
Speaking at the 65th anniversary of the CPP, Mr. Hun Sen said the party will not support the court’s ruling in this case and will never support any declaration by Asean states or others to support court decisions relating to the South China Sea. Cambodia has repeatedly cited its stance of non-interference, believing the issue should be dealt with between the countries involved.
Mr. Hun Sen has spoken against the court case brought by the Philippines, saying foreign diplomats from the West have repeatedly tried to pressure him and other Asean states into supporting the court’s decision.
He said the fact that they are being strong-armed into supporting a decision that has not yet been released shows the West already knows the verdict and is manipulating the court.
“Cambodia has, again and again, become a victim of the South China Sea issue because of unjust accusations. I hope that countries unconcerned will not suffer injustices as Cambodia did,” Mr. Hun Sen said in a statement before tens of thousands of party members.
“The CPP regards the South China Sea issue as a matter between countries concerning sovereignty, and not ones between Asean and China. In this meaning, the CPP appeals to every concerned country to resolve their issue peacefully together. Only the countries concerned will be able to resolve this problem. Asean is not able to work on behalf of those countries’ concerns,” he added.
This is the third time since last week the prime minister and his ruling CPP party have brought up the South China Sea issue and the harsh criticism they have faced recently and in the past over their closeness to China.
Cambodia was criticized by some Asean members after working with others to retract a statement from Asean slamming China for its actions in the sea after an Asean summit in Kunming, China, and at an Asean meeting in Phnom Penh in 2012.    
Chheang Vannarith, chairman of the Cambodian Institute for Strategic Study, told Khmer Times that Cambodia’s foreign policy was almost always driven by money.
“Economic interests define Cambodia’s foreign policy. Cambodia will not act against China’s core interests due to its strong economic ties with China,” he said.
“If the regional and external countries keep pressuring the non-claimant states like Cambodia to build a united front against China, Asean will become disintegrated.”
In his speech, Mr. Hun Sen said although there are disagreements between some Asean members on the South China Sea issue, he believes there is no division in their belief in Asean as an idea.
He added that other regional blocs have had similar issues and were able to work through them, citing the many crises that have plagued the EU recently, including the Greek debt problem, the embargo on Russia and the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the bloc.

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