Last week’s meeting between US President Barack Obama and leaders of ASEAN in Southern California will be marked as a successful US endeavor, a governance expert says.
Ok Serei Sopheak told “Hello VOA” this week that the meeting, at Sunnylands Estate, in Rancho Mirage, produced a joint declaration that will become a “legacy of US policy.”
The Sunnylands summit will shape the way the US engages with ASEAN for years to come, he said, no matter who becomes the next president.
The 17-point declaration creates guidelines for US-ASEAN positions on economics, trade and security. That will help ASEAN speak in one voice on issues of concern, such as the South China Sea, where four of the regional block’s members have overlapping claims with China.
“This is like putting pressure on China, in that we are seeking peaceful cooperation based on international maritime law,” Ok Serei Sopheak said.
That was clear in the declaration’s points 7, 8 and 9, where leaders emphasized a demilitarized, peaceful resolution to the South China Sea issue, he said. “Therefore, whatever China does using force will run contrary to this spirit.”
The summit also saw protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government. This demonstrates that many want to see Cambodia seek better respect for human rights and democracy, including in peaceful, free and fair elections, with the participation of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, Ok Serei Sopheak said.
Referring to the beatings of two opposition lawmakers last year after a pro-government demonstration, Ok Serei Sopheak said the video images, shared via social media “throughout the world” were “hard to accept.”
“The world is watching us,” he said.