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Vaccine passports expected to be hot topic at ASEAN Summit

Sar Socheath  Khmer Times Thu, June 10, 2021

The Thai Ministry of Public Health shows a sample of a Covid-19 vaccine passport. Bangkok Post

Some prominent Cambodian think-tank intellectuals have said that vaccine passports will be one of the main priorities on the agenda for the ASEAN Summit as Cambodia takes the chairmanship in 2022.

Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute, said: “A vaccine passport is critical to gradually restoring people’s mobility in the region. We need to find ways and means to recover from the crisis and human mobility is necessary especially to restore the travel and tourism industry and business operations.”

Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said: “When Cambodia hosts the ASEAN Summit, Cambodia can take this as a focal point and can take this issue as a planned strategy.”

“Cambodia should initiate this (topic) with Asean leaders and all development partners to pay more close attention to the Covid-19 crisis. In fact, under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia has enacted some very good policies and strategies against Covid-19, especially our vaccination programme,” he said.

“Cambodia’s vaccination policy is on the top of the list after Singapore. This is a good point, but Cambodia must continue to engage more, because the Covid-19 pandemic is more dangerous than other issues in the world now,” said Sothirak.

Asean nations and partners, especially ASEAN Plus Three, already have some commitments on the Covid-19 issue, but each of the Asean members and its partners should have more practical results, he said.

“The commitment is there, but let it become a practical action,” Sothirak said.

Kin Phea, director general of International Relations at the Institute of Cambodia, shared a more cautious view, saying: “I think it may just be a discussion, but it may not be a priority agenda yet. This is what I think.”

Phea said that the vaccine passports are an important issue, but there seems to be some controversy surrounding this, because we see that there is some discrimination.

“Europeans and the United States seem to be discriminating against the Chinese vaccine, so if we have a vaccine passport, it may not be comprehensive as long as the Western block doesn’t give up their discriminating ideas,” he said.

“If we put this issue on the agenda of the summit, it could be a challenge between the West and China, while China seems to be leading on the issue of vaccination diplomacy,” Phea said.

Cambodia was the last country to become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on April 30, 1999. Since then, Cambodia has chaired Asean twice, the first time in 2002 and the second in 2012. Next year Cambodia will take the chair again.

SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia, Thu, June 10, 2021

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