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South China Sea Not on Asean Agenda: Defense Minister

China claims the highlighted portion of the South China Sea. Many other governments also claim all or part of the South China Sea.
China claims the highlighted portion of the South China Sea. Many other governments also claim all or part of the South China Sea.
Chun SakadaVOA Khmer

Neither disputes over the South China Sea nor the Cambodian-Thai border will be on the agenda for Asean defense ministers, a top Cambodian official said Tuesday.

Speaking at an Asean strategy forum in Phnom Penh, Defense Minister Tea Banh said Cambodia will appeal to Asean members and China to work to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea, but Cambodia will not put it directly on any agenda for meetings in July.

The border dispute closer to home will be settled through other means and is no longer a priority, he said.

“The issue of Cambodian-Thai border conflict would be tackled in accordance with international law, friendship and cooperation,” he said.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Cambodia’s position on the border dispute was a step backward, since last year it had made a direct request to Indonesia, then the rotating president of Asean, to intervene.

“Now when Cambodia has become the chairman of Asean, we do not raise the issue,” he said. “We’ve refused this topic.”

Independent political analyst Lao Monghay said the border dispute is a thorny issue, because Cambodia is both the head of Asean and a party to the dispute.

The South China Sea issues remain tricky, too, he said, “because China is a world power.”

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