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Challenges Ahead as Cambodia Preps for Asean Presidency

Foreign ministers and government officials attend the US - Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Nusa Dua on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, July 23, 2011

As Cambodia prepares to step into its role as rotating head of Asean, political analysts say it will face a number of challenges, including its own ongoing border fracas with Thailand and a simmering dispute among member nations over the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong, who met with the Thai secretary-general of Asean, Surin Pitsowan, on Thursday, told reporters that Cambodia would work toward regional integration in 2015.

However, independent political analyst Lao Monghay told VOA Khmer Cambodia will have to manage the border conflict with Thailand, competing interests over the South China Sea and the regional influences of the US and China if it is to have a successful run as head of the regional bloc.

“Currently Cambodia’s foreign policy seems to face many obstacles,” he said.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Cambodia’s chairmanship of Asean will mean it must mediate discussions between Asean and China, which holds heavy sway in the region.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a researcher for at the Asean Studies Center, said Cambodia would be wise to choose the issue of conflict resolution to concentrate on during its leadership of the regional body, giving priority especially to its own border concerns and working on the South China Sea issue.