Myanmar and Ukraine are expected to be key topics as the Asean Summit — and at least 12 side summits — kick off in Phnom Penh Thursday.
The city has been getting ready for the event this week with street cleanups and traffic plans amid an otherwise quiet Water Festival holiday in the capital.
The summit’s agenda from Thursday through Sunday features two main Asean Summit sessions, totaling 3.5 hours on Friday, with the rest of the time filled with a range of mostly hourlong dialogues between Asean and non-Asean members.
Thursday is scheduled to start with two Asean council meetings followed by an audience with King Norodom Sihamoni. A ceremony will follow at 11 a.m. for Ukraine and Spain to sign a Southeast Asian peace treaty, which would raise the number of signatories to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia — first established in 1976 — to 51 as they pledge mutual respect for states’ territories.
Ukraine’s signing of the treaty underscores the looming presence of the Russian invasion in international dialogues as at least eight non-Asean countries are set to participate in the four days of discussions.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has already arrived in Cambodia and met with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who told Kuleba that Cambodians “understand well the feeling of Ukrainians” due to past invasions, according to government news service AKP.
Hun Sen last week had a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where Zelensky asked to play a video message in Phnom Penh during the summit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending.
The other major geopolitical topic on the table is Myanmar as violence continues in the regional neighbor following last year’s coup. Hun Sen began Cambodia’s yearlong chairmanship of Asean with optimism for bringing peace to Myanmar — “Let Hun Sen do it,” the prime minister said of himself in December — but such hopes quickly faded. The Foreign Affairs Ministry said in July that patience would be needed.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers already met last month ahead of the summit in a special meeting to discuss the Myanmar crisis.
This week, in between a working luncheon, gala dinner and an Asean Summit “retreat session,” talks will also be held with China, Korea, U.N., India, Australia, Japan, U.S. and Canada.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, U.S. President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and others have said they will attend.