Press Release: The Study Mission to Cambodia, 31 May 1997

The Study Mission to Cambodia (SMC) is pleased to announce the release of its report "Cambodia in ASEAN: Partnership for Peace and National Reconciliation" in anticipation of Cambodia’s formal entry in ASEAN in July 1997.

This is a critical time for Cambodia. At stake are the both future of her national reconciliation and her participation in the process of regional co-operation. In addition to her domestic problems Cambodia may face the prospect of being excluded from ASEAN membership this year. In recognition of these alarming trends a group of friends of Cambodia organised a delegation to Cambodia from 4-7 May, 1997. Working in their private capacities and calling themselves a "Study Mission to Cambodia" (SMC), they sought to learn at first hand about the present situation in Cambodia, with a view towards offering any form of assistance that is deemed appropriate. Out of the members’ common concern for the kingdom, the SMC is determined that the Cambodian people will not stand alone and will continue to consolidate the progress which has been achieved in the last five years.

More specifically, the purposes of the SMC are as follows:-

To understand the present situation which contains a potential for further escalation of conflict and violence;

To assess the Cambodians’ resolve to join ASEAN in the light of the recent domestic and regional development;

To forward the conclusions, including policy recommendation. To the governments and leaders of ASEAN and Cambodia for their consideration before the ASEAN foreign minister convene for their special meeting in Kuala Lumpur at the end of May 1997 to consider the question of new ASEAN membership.

Acting in their private capacities, the members of the SMC comprise the following:-

M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Mission Leader, who is also a Member of Parliament of Thailand;

Dr. Jesus Estanislao, President of Asia and Pacific, Philippines and former Secretary of Finance of the Philippines;

Mr M. Rajaretnam, the SMC Convenor, who is also the Director of Information and Resource Center, Singapore and Visiting Senior Fellow and Advisor, Renaissance Project, Institute for Policy Research, Malaysia;

Mr Abdul Rahman Adnan, Director, Institute for Policy Research (Institut Kajian Dasar), Malaysia;

Ambassador Sabam Siagian, Advisor to the Jakarta Post, Indonesia and Indonesia Ambassador to Australia;

Dr George Manzano, Assistant Professor in Economic at the University of Asia and the Pacific, Philippines;

Professor Dr Zakaria Hj Ahmad, Head of the Strategic and Security Studies Unit of University Kebangsaan Malaysia;

Dr Lau Teik Soon, Attorney at Law at Ong Teck Ghee & Partners, Singapore, and former Member of Parliament, Singapore;

Mr Kraisak Choonhavan, Advisor to the Governor, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Thailand;

Dr Mohd Haflah Piei, the Deputy of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research, Kuala Lumpur, and UNPD/AFTA Consultant for Cambodia.

Over two and half days, the SMC met with some of the leaders of Cambodia including His Royal Highness Samdech Krom preah Norodom Ranariddh, First Prime Minister; His Excellency Samdech Hun Sen, Second Prime Minister; His Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior; His Excellency Ung Huot, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Members of Parliament and Government Officials, officers of both Cambodian and international non-governmental organisations based in Phnom Penh, as well as diplomats and representatives of the private sector from the ASEAN countries.

Although the political situation in Cambodia may appear grave and cause the SMC members, however, were of the view that it was not more serious than the situation of some Asian states. The SMC is confident that Cambodia’s preparation in ASEAN are on track.

Nonetheless, the SMC wishes to recommend a series of political and economic measures that can undergrid both Cambodia and ASEAN. More specifically, the SMC recommends:-

Cambodia’s present political predicament should not be used as a reason for keeping her out of ASEAN

Cambodia should be admitted as a new member of ASEAN this year

Cambodia’s membership in ASEAN should be seen on its own merits and should not be confused with the membership of Laos and Myanmar

ASEAN should assist in every way Cambodia’s entry into ASEAN this year

The strengthening of the rule of law process with the enhancement of the "Commission of Eight", with provisions for greater authority and responsibilities

Based on the declaration of the Commission of Eight, to promote professionalism and impartiality of the Armed Forces and Bureaucracy so as to improve public confidence, public security and law and order

The immediate establishment of an independent electoral commission with appropriate authority to ensure fair and free elections in 1998 and beyond

We also urge NGOs both local and foreign to sustain the good work they are already doing in Cambodia

In the longer run, institutional and legal relations be implement to further good governance, improve economic management and planning, ensure quality of justice and promote Human Resource Development

The SMC believes that Cambodia is well on its way to prepare for entry into ASEAN, especially in measures for economic integration through the AFTA/CEPT process. Indeed, the preparatory steps have accelerated and will only enhance Cambodia/ASEAN integration.

The SMC was sponsored by the Institute of Policy Research in Malaysia. May 31, 1997

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