This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Brief: Cambodia-Philippines Diplomatic Tiff Continues Carlyle A. Thayer August 3 and 7, 2012
[client name deleted] Q1. I was hoping I could get your thoughts on the Cambodian ambassador's nonappearance at the Philippines DFA. They summoned him on Monday to explain the public comments he made regarding the failures of the Asean communique (blamed the Philippines and Vietnam). He hasn't yet appeared, with the embassy claiming he's feeling sick. The DFA won't speculate on what would happen if the ambassador continued to be "sick", but I was hoping you might. How big a deal is it for the ambassador to put off the host country like this? ANSWER: When a Foreign Ministry summons an ambassador it is a serious matter. It indicates that other less formal avenues for communication are either not working or have broken down. At the moment, the Cambodian ambassador must be given the benefit of the doubt over his excuse that he was unwell reportedly with the flu. If the excuse of illness was a ruse it will only make the current contretemps more complicated. The Philippines can continue to summon the Ambassador in order to obtain an explanation for his published remarks. If the Philippines finally concludes that the Ambassador is showing disrespect by his actions they could declare him persona non grata and expel him. The level of mutual trust is so low that it is incumbent on Cambodia to demonstrate good faith. They could release a medical report and when the Ambassador has recovered he could front up to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Q2. What does this mean for bilateral relations? For Asean? Is this a major misstep on Cambodia's part? ANSWER: At this juncture it would be unwise to jump to conclusions. But beyond the issue of the Ambassador's "diplomatic illness", Cambodia has certainly inflamed the situation by its combative diplomatic behaviour. First, when Foreign Minister Hor Namhong announced ASEAN's Six Principles on the South China Sea brokered by Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalagewa, he couldn't resist raking the coals of the dispute over the joint communique by accusing the Philippines and Vietnam of attempting to hijack the ministerial meeting. Then Cambodia launched a full court press with a press conference criticizing the Philippines and by having ambassadors write letters to the editors denouncing news reports unfavourable to Cambodia. The Cambodian Ambassador used particularly incendiary language accusing the Philippines of playing “dirty politics.” This is more than a misstep on Cambodia's
2 part, it is a major miscalculation. It brings ASEAN into disrepute and it further inflames bilateral relations. Cambodia has undermined its role as ASEAN Chair over the next five months when it relinquishes the chair. Cambodia's actions if unchecked will have a poisonous impact on intra-ASEAN cohesion as it attempts to negotiate a Code of Conduct with China. This all plays into China's hands because it has no incentive to resolve the COC issue quickly. Q3. (August 7, 2012) It was rumoured yesterday that Cambodia’s ambassador to the Philippines is being replaced. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) says it will have to wait for the new ambassador before they can deliver the note verbale. On the one hand, this might be a valid excuse as the ambassador's term started almost exactly two years ago (July 27, 2010) - which reportedly is a standard term. On the other hand, this is all rather convenient. Why didn’t Cambodia bring up the Ambassador’s replacement a week ago? Apparently the DFA had no idea that Cambodia was replacing its current ambassador. ANSWER: Either the Ambassador was sick (with the flu) or he wasn’t. If the Ambassador has recovered he should then make himself available to attend the DFA summons and receive the note verbale. In the ordinary course of events there should be no mystery about the departure of an Ambassador at the end of his/her term and the Ambassador’s replacement. Diplomatic practice requires the Ambassador to give notice of his departure at the end of his term (he is usually fare welled by the diplomatic corps). At the same time Cambodia would need to approach the Philippines for its prior approval for the appointment (agrément in diplomacy) of a new Ambassador. The new Ambassador would be able to discharge his/her diplomatic functions only after he/she had presented his/her credentials to the Philippines. The interval between the departure of the present ambassador and his replacement could be (a) to provide a convenient time to let tempers cool or (b) for Cambodia to obfuscate matters by delaying having to respond to the DFA summons and answer the note verbale.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Cambodia-Philippines Diplomatic Tiff Continues,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, August 3 and 7, 2012. Thayer Consultancy Background Briefs are archived and may be accessed at: http://www.scribd.com/carlthayer.
Cambodia recalls envoy to Philippines amid South China Sea protest
August 11, 2012 RECORDER REPORT Cambodia has recalled its ambassador to the Philippines around a week after he accused his host country of playing "dirty politics" in a territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea, Manila's foreign ministry said Friday. Ambassador Hos Sereythonh was scheduled to leave the Philippines on August 17, more than one year before his three-year tour of duty was supposed to end, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said. Phnom Penh gave no explanation for the move and merely requested the Philippines to facilitate the entry of the new ambassador, Manila's foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said. "It is the prerogative of a sending state to reassign or recall its ambassador," he said. "Cambodia is [also] an ASEAN member and a friend. We hope the [new] Cambodian ambassador will help reinforce the friendship that exists between our two countries." The recall followed Manila's protest over Hos's letter to a local newspaper accusing the Philippines and Vietnam of sabotaging last month's ASEAN meeting in Cambodia. Foreign ministers from the Association of south-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to agree on how to deal with China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea. Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2012