The Association of Southeast Asia Nation was formed on 8 August, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand by five countries include Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines to promote political and economic cooperation between its members and other countries, especially, with the superpower countries. Now ten countries in Southeast Asia such as Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Loa, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are the members of ASEAN. However, Cambodia is the last member joined ASEAN on 30th April, 1999 after the observation on the political situation, and got the consensuses from its members. Due to the fact that, ASEAN’s successful achievements in term of the consultation, consensus, and cooperation, which are the effective strategies and also the good methods to solved the problem by peaceful means, and also make a decision based on the majority. Furthermore, there are three main pillars of an ASEAN community: an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), ASEAN Security Community (ASC), and ASEAN Socio Cultural Community (ASCC). The purposes of creating ASEAN are to accelerate the economic growth, to promote regional peace and security, to enlarge the cooperation and relationship, and the main aim is to end the war and solved the conflict in the region. This association created the ASEAN Charter to govern its members, and enforce the countries to respect and to obey the rules and law, particularly the chatter. One principle in the charter mentions about non-interference policy, and respects the state sovereignty, which enables its members living in peace and harmony, and integrates as a unique community. It tries to eliminate most tariffs on manufactured goods between its members by established the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in January 1993. In addition, in the same year ASEAN also formed the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) for the security issues to discuss regional security concerns, and it was established as the regional forum for consultations on Asia-Pacific security issues at the government level. For example, ASEAN plays a main role to organize international efforts to end conflict in Cambodia in 1978, and also led the democratic elections in Cambodia in 1993. This association has a great influence on Asia-Pacific trade and political and security issues, and all this issues, its members could not achieve it by individually.
In short, ASEAN was created to manage and to govern the countries in the region not only the politic but also the socio-cultural and economic sectors. It also maintains the peace, ensure the security, promote economic growth, extend relationship with others, encourage the cooperation and integration, and play the main role to solve the conflict in the region. Therefore, all countries include Cambodia as a member in ASEAN, have to follow the principles and respect each others to become a unique community, living in peace and harmony, and also to achieve all this things.
Cambodia has struggled many difficulties and faced a number of obstacles to meet the demand of ASEAN, thus to fulfill the founding fathers’ vision to integrate all ten nations of Southeast Asia within ASEAN working together for the promotion of peace, progress and prosperity for all to share. In doing so, what did Cambodia do to fulfill the ASEAN’s requirements? What were the challenges that she faced? And what were the benefits that she gets from the association?
Cambodia had a policy to reintegrate its economy into the regional and global economies. Therefore, the Royal Government of Cambodia indicated its interest in participation in ASEAN activities with an intention to become a full membership because it is the best way to foster its economy in the regional and world economies. As a result, in January 1995 Cambodia officially became an observer in ASEAN after this association gave the green light to accede the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). However, Cambodia’s journey to ASEAN membership was not easy, and it made Cambodia missed all opportunities of integrating itself with this regional institution.
Cambodia was expected to face a number of important challenges in the process of its integration into the region and the world once it joins ASEAN, so Cambodia had to find the effective solutions to deal with these difficulties. First, Cambodia needed to build national resilience to maintain peace and political stability during its transitional period. To do that, Cambodia had to promote confidence and trust among leaders and between leader and people of this nation, use the peace and non-violence as a ways to solve the dispute, continue to promote a democratic culture of accommodation, tolerance, and inclusion, and strengthened and institutionalized the legal framework. It is significant for Cambodia to integrate with its membership in ASEAN. Second, Cambodia needed to manage the negative image that it experienced during the Khmer Rouge regime. It was clear that almost everyone and particularly the scholars, writers and journalists viewed Cambodia in a negative image, thus it took time to recover and deal with this problem. Actually, the contributed of ASEAN help to restore the positive image for Cambodia. Third, Cambodia needed to invest in the country, especially for the development of both soft and hard infrastructures, so it had to put more resources, time, energy and think about the investment in its diplomacy in the future. Fourth, Cambodia had to invest in human resources development which is a long term process and costly because it needed to put more resources into the education and health of the people for a better future of this country. Fifth, Cambodia needed to promote the coordination and planning at all level to maximize the benefits of its membership from ASEAN. Sixth, Cambodia needed to build a sound economy and maximize its comparative advantages in connection with the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). Last but not least, Cambodia had to settle with the challenging of transnational crimes that widespread in the country by asking the support and assistance from the outside to fight against international crime. Therefore, Cambodia needed to overcome all these challenges toward its goals and to integrate into ASEAN.
As a result, Cambodia achieved the potential benefits from ASEAN membership including diplomatic recognition, legitimacy, economic and social stability, and confidence on the economic side. For instance, ASEAN provided resources to Cambodia to develop a sound legal framework, and to upgrade the human resources and skills. Besides, membership in ASEAN enabled the integration of the local economy into regional and global economies which is the main goal of Cambodia. Furthermore, it has appositive effect on the economy and future development of and industrial base in Cambodia, and a positive impact on the development of the agricultural sector as well.
In short, to integrate as a membership of ASEAN, Cambodia faced a lot of difficulties and struggle many challenges. For example, beyond human resource development there are other issues that consider the major obstacles for Cambodia to overcome. However, as a membership of ASEAN Cambodia can promote the political, economic and social stability for its people.
The perspectives of Cambodia on ASEAN’s policy
Cambodia thinks that it would gain a lot from ASEAN membership, and hope that ASEAN integration would serve as a catalyst for peace and domestic political development in Cambodia because it will possess greater economic resilience and security than any individual member country can achieve it alone.
If Cambodia success in ASEAN integration, it can eradicate poverty and create prosperity to secure the socio-economic development including consistent macroeconomic policies, a strong legal framework, high quality education, accessible health care and transparent governance. Moreover, Cambodia believes that the association must be enabled to cope with the demands of an enlarged grouping in the new regional and international challenges in the next century. Particularly, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries is what all countries need because most countries in Southeast Asia experienced the colonized period, so they do not want it happens again for its people. In this case, if a country became a membership in ASEAN, it would be protected from acquisition of super powers, and prevent its members to invade each others; as ASEAN charter stated that each country has to respect others’ sovereignty; so all members should follow the charter and obey the rule that ASEAN stated in order to live in the prosperity and harmony community, and to maintain peace and security in the region. Besides, Cambodia has a confidence and believes in the treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TACSEA), the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality which are created by ASEAN to maintain peace and security in the region, and more importantly the ASEAN spirit. Therefore, as a member of ASEAN Cambodia would get the necessary protective frameworks when engaged in international negotiations, and ASEAN also can helps Cambodia to promote economic development under its umbrella. Thus, Cambodia benefit not only in term of peaceful co-existence, but also in economic integration into a single ASEAN market and production base in which there will be a free flow of goods, services, skilled labor, and a free flow of capital, along with equitable economic development in order to reduce poverty and socio-economic disparity among member states. As a result, it has appositive effect on the economy and future development of and industrial base in Cambodia, and a positive impact on the development of the agricultural sector as well. For example, being a membership of ASEAN Cambodia can promote the political, economic and social stability for its people, and has a capacity to involve in international stag as well. Cambodia recognized the important role of ASEAN in term of these benefits, so it desired to join this association, and tried to overcome many challenges toward its goals. However, not only Cambodia wants to be a member of ASEAN for its benefit but also ASEAN needs Cambodia to full fill its vision of united Southeast Asia because it has engaged in a mission to promote peace and stability in the region. In this case, Cambodia needs ASEAN for its own national interests. For example, to strengthen independence and sovereignty, and to get a profile in both regional and international affairs Cambodia as a small state should become more active in ASEAN affairs and position itself in the ASEAN mainstream. On the other hand, Cambodia became the 10th member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), it fulfilled the dream of the founding fathers 32 years ago because the vision of a united Southeast Asia has been one of the pillars of ASEAN since its founding in 1967, so it is the great achievement of ASEAN to united all countries in Southeast Asia under the control of a unique community because it enables this association to reach its goals, and easy for it to follow its mechanisms to achieve what it sets.
In conclusion, Cambodia needs ASEAN for its own interest, especially for the significant of geo-politic and geo-economic. Moreover, as a small state in Southeast Asia Cambodia can protect itself from the powerful states based on the non-interference policy; so it can maintain its independence and sovereignty, and it can integrate its economy both in regional and international market as well. As a result, if ASEAN became a unique community, all its members can share a common destiny and pursue the common goal of peace and prosperity for its people, so everyone will live in a good condition and harmony.
The respond of ASEAN to Cambodia
Cambodia’s hopes and expectations of joining the group were high, and the peace and prosperity were believed to be the overall results of regional cooperation and integration. As a result, for the past 10 years of being an ASEAN member, Cambodia is said to have benefited to a large extent in the spheres of economics, politics and security. However, the questions still remain including has the ASEAN membership been playing the key role in improving Cambodia’s domestic political, socio-economic and external security situation over the past decade? What can Cambodia do to gain more from this membership in future? As ASEAN is evolving to meet new challenges, how can Cambodia contribute to furthering the integration process for the benefits of all members?
Importantly, development gap remains a big challenge for the ten-members of ASEAN, especially between the six old members of ASEAN, and four new members (CLMV). For example, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Indonesia is the largest economy in ASEAN, and it is almost 100 times of that of Laos and Cambodia which are the smallest economic entity in the region. In this case, ASEAN is urged to narrow the development gap through sub- regional cooperation and technical assistance to help the new members’ growth and become further integrated into the regional economy. Moreover, ASEAN is also faced with the challenge of capital shortage because the region needs a large amount of capital to implement its master plan on connectivity, involving the road, railway, bridge and other infrastructure development. Besides, ASEAN members have differences in political system, social system, culture and orientation of defense policies. Therefore, it is so hard for ASEAN to achieve its goals, and to find an effective resolution to deal with all these problems.
ASEAN is an alliance promoting economic and political cooperation by fostering dialogue among its ten members. As an important multilateral organization in Asia, ASEAN is also becoming a major economic powerhouse in the region having enacted free trade agreements (FTA) with China, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, and Korea. For instance, ASEAN was formed in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1967, uniting Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand against the potential threat of communist-led insurgency which was intended as a security community, promoting social and political stability during a turbulent time. In addition, ASEAN enables its members to upgrade its economy to international market, reduce tariff among its countries, and cooperate with one another for common interest and so on. In contrast, ASEAN can not solve the problems and conflicts between its members; for example, the Cambodia-Thai conflict, South China Sea problem, Myanmar case and East Timor dispute, and particularly, its distribution to its members is limited and not equal between its members, so ASEAN has no enough capacity to deal with its members’ problems yet.
In short, ASEAN do not respond well to its countries in many ways in term of what it did to its membership, and what the challenges that it facing. Therefore, this community has to improve and develop more to make sure it has strong power to prevent and protect its members, to find effective solutions to fight with the challenges, and to distribute to the membership equally, importantly to provide the peace and security to the membership in the regional.
The future of Cambodia in ASEAN
Cambodia needs the recognition of the current world trend bearing the nature of interdependence and globalization. As a membership of ASEAN Cambodia will enjoy great benefit in the spheres of economy, politics and security; as an example, it can attract more investors because they have confidence in their business operation in Cambodia, ASEAN is a main supporter for Cambodia in international arena, it will has internal stability in Cambodia, and it is also provide a regional framework to deal with the external security problems, particularly with its neighborhood. Furthermore, the tradition and the principle of non-interference into each others’ internal affairs is another reason which is a great importance for Cambodia to be a member of ASEAN. In this case, Cambodia considers this principle as the useful tools to protect and prevent it from the invasion, and it is also equally for all countries in the world in the international relation. For instance, even the powerful, strong or weak, rich or poor, big or small countries have to respect others sovereignty, and recognizes the equality among member countries of the international community. In doing so, Cambodia never interferes other internal affairs, and also needs other countries tread the same things toward it.
All these reasons made Cambodia willing to integrate into ASEAN, and coped with a great number of difficulties including the development of human resources, preparation of institutional mechanism, legal frame work and the liberalization process in trade, industry and investment, reformation in legal structure of economy, taxation and so on. Particularly, Cambodia always welcome with the grateful to the friendly countries who intend to help Cambodia to obtain peace, national reconciliation, success in its democracy building process and economy development. Actually, Cambodia membership will be a source of strengths of ASEAN because it is a factor that will bring stability to the region , and also bring the Association with specific objectives such as to secure political and economic stability from the powerful countries and to eliminate and stop the conflict among its members; Cambodia is not different from others, even it truly small and poor but the heart, the willingness, the dignity and the honor ready to make its contribution to ASEAN toward its goals. According to what Cambodia get from its relationship we can predict that Cambodia will be prosper in term of the improvement of its economy through ASEAN’s principle; it can has a free trade with others countries including its neighborhood like Thailand, Vietnam and Loa, and also the powerful countries; and it will bring the stability, peace and security for Cambodia in term of its good relation with others.
In short, Cambodia can integrate its regional economy into international economy and has ability to compete with others in international market, and can maintain the peace and security and also the best relation with other countries through ASEAN’s membership; and it will be stronger and stronger in the future.