As the Chair of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) 2022, today Samdech Pichey Sena Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the National Defence shared some views on the future of the ADMM.

Samdech Tea Banh said the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed the most disruptive event in modern history. The fight against COVID-19 has become a common battleground for all of us. With the COVID-19 outbreak, we have seen the emerging role of armed forces in combating the pandemic. For Cambodia, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) has been playing a significant role in containing the spread of the virus through a massive vaccination campaign for the Cambodian people. To date, more than 10 million adults have been vaccinated with at least 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The government has also launched a vaccination campaign for adolescents and children. In total, Cambodia has already vaccinated around 13,709,487 people, equivalent to 85.68 percent of the total population of 16 million. It is clear that only with full vaccination that we can create herd immunity in our society and resume economic activities and recovery.

In addition, he continued, RCAF has also played a leading role in managing people’s movement across the country and implementing the Royal Government’s COVID-19 counter-measures, especially in the areas along the borders. Given the importance of cross-border cooperation to contain the pandemic, Cambodia sees that practical cooperation among ASEAN Defence Establishments in this area should be further enhanced. Notably, this enhanced cross-border cooperation will also be useful for our militaries when jointly addressing other common security challenges in the long term —such as transnational crimes, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR).

“On the natural disasters and climate change are interrelated. Frequent and intensified natural disasters indeed result from climate change. This slow-burning emergency will impact food and water security and the livelihood of our people. Armed forces of respective ASEAN countries have played a significant role in HADR, particularly search and rescues, assisting people who have been dislocated to safe zones, and security protection. More importantly, our ASEAN militaries also provide cross-border HADR assistance to other regional countries. While natural disasters are likely to increase in the future, practical cooperation among ASEAN militaries must be enhanced, specifically through the full and effective implementation of the ADMM Three-Year Work Program. At the same time, it is also crucial for ADMM to consider climate change in its cooperative mechanisms in order to build armed forces’ resilience and mitigate the impact of these climate challenges. The use of technology is crucial as it provides solutions for human life, particularly in relation to the use of new technology to limit the spread of COVID-19, along with other disaster management efforts,” he noted.

Samdech Tea Banh said peacekeeping is a cornerstone of the UN’s peace and security work, and women peacekeepers are a key to its success. Today, more women serve in UN Peacekeeping efforts more than ever before. Women serve the UN as part of the military, the police and as civilians. Cambodia ranks 13th out of 122 countries and 2nd in ASEAN in contributing to the deployment of women peacekeepers to countries and regions worldwide. This accomplishment is not random. It is achieved through a clear vision and policy direction of the Royal Government of Cambodia to empower women in Cambodian society and the international arena. While ASEAN already has practical cooperation on peacekeeping operations, this cooperation must further expand its focus on enhancing the involvement of women and their readiness for deployment in the UN-umbrella PKO missions. Such an initiative will strengthen ASEAN’s effort and commitment to achieving the UN agenda of “Women, Peace, and Security”.

Peace and political stability are the indispensable foundations for enhancing a sustainable and prosperous Southeast Asian region, he stressed, adding that without peace and stability, countries in the region would see no development nor prosperity. While the current geopolitical and geostrategic competition has the potential to disrupt regional peace and stability, ASEAN needs to enhance the tradition of multilateral cooperation with external partners, based on a robust internal unity and ASEAN centrality.

In conclusion, Samdech Tea Banh said Cambodia welcomes open, inclusive, and transparent initiatives with a clear objective to promote practical cooperation, sustainable peace, and development in the region. New security developments in the region thus require deliberation and shared understanding among all ASEAN member states. As recent regional security arrangements have emerged, some concerns over escalation of geopolitical contest and possible regional arms races have immediately arisen.

At the same time, he expressed his great appreciation the Honourable Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Retired) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi Bin Haji MD Yussof, Chair of the Meeting, for his successful and admirable leadership of ADMM and related meetings in 2021.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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