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CAMBODIA – RAC: Unite to counterbalance superpowers’ geopolitical rivalry

Ry Sochan The Phnom Penh Post  November 15,  2021

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Speakers at the Indo-Pacific International Relations forum held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia on Monday. FACEBOOKRy Sochan ROYAL Academy of Cambodia (RAC)

PHNOM PENH – Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) president Sok Touch urged the smaller countries of the Indo-Pacific to work together to establish diplomatic mechanisms to counterbalance the superpowers’ geopolitical rivalry in the region to promote stability and peace.

“The small Indo-Pacific countries need to work together to create a mechanism to balance things with the superpowers,” he said, apparently referring to China and the US.

“The small countries should unite. Like the ASEAN proverb says – ASEAN is 10 countries with a shared destiny. Let this be the truth, not just words written on paper. Let’s put it into practice,” he said.

Touch made the remarks at the “International Relations Forum on Indo-Pacific Strategy and Diplomacy of Small States” organised by the RAC and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Cambodia (KAS) and held via video conference on November 15.

Touch said the Indo-Pacific strategy of the superpowers seemed to be to break poor countries, which would have to side with the one that provides the most assistance.

The most influential countries in the Indo-Pacific are Japan, South Korea and India but their biggest interests are economic and their major markets are in the US and China, he said.

According to Touch, the happiness of one country does not depend on another nation’s efforts to organise it from the outside and he pointed out that the US has not managed to democratise Saudi Arabia after decades of alliance with them because of its strong cultural and religious beliefs.

He said the rivalry between the superpowers can pose a danger to small countries and particularly for any Cambodian politicians who forget Cambodia’s history with war and make themselves pawns of any foreign power.

Touch took issue with ASEAN, which was established in 1967 and today has 10 member countries, over the slogan “one community, one destiny”. He said ASEAN member states’ political systems differ and certain ASEAN countries are more dominant than others in the same manner that France and Germany are the “big brothers” of the EU.

He said the new superpower rivalry’s geopolitical conflict was playing out across the Indo-Pacific region and the worst affected countries by the geopolitical competition are Indonesia because of its 17,000 islands – and Cambodia.

Touch called on the superpowers to consider first solving environmental issues like climate change instead of wasting resources on a geopolitical competition for power or military conquests.

“The superpowers have achieved nothing in the fight to save the environment besides words written on paper,” he said. “The superpowers of China, America and Russia have done the most damage to the environment by testing nuclear and chemical weapons.”

Tina Redshaw, UK ambassador to Cambodia, said at the forum that small states can maximise their strength by helping each other and maintaining strong relationships with neighbouring states and others who share their interests across the globe.

“Cambodia’s membership in ASEAN is very important. Cambodia and all the ASEAN member states have seen some really big benefits from ASEAN diplomacy in their countries,” she said.

SOURCE: The Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia November 15,  2021

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