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ASEAN rejects Cambodian membership

Signing photo

Laos, Burma inducted into group

July 23, 1997
Web posted at: 9:49 a.m. EDT (1349 GMT)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday reaffirmed its decision to postpone Cambodia's membership indefinitely because of the recent coup there.

The foreign minister of Malaysia, host nation of the ASEAN meeting, said the organization still considered as Cambodia's First Prime Minister, even though he was ousted by Co-Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month.

"We feel there is still instability in Cambodia, and we reaffirmed our decision not to induct Cambodia," said Malaysian Foreign Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The statement was unusual for the 30-year-old group, which has had a long-standing policy of non-interference in the international affairs of other countries.

During Wednesday's meeting, ASEAN formally admitted Laos and Burma. The ceremonies initially were to have included Cambodia as well. The other members are Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Thailand.

Members photo

Cambodia's Hun Sen last week rejected ASEAN mediation to solve the political crisis by accusing the group of meddling in Cambodia's internal affairs.

Cambodia was thrown into turmoil earlier this month when Second Prime Minister Hun Sen overthrew Ranariddh after two days of intense fighting in the capital Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen has backed Cambodian Foreign Minister Ung Huot to replace Ranariddh.

Adbullah indicated that the nomination was in question. "The position of prime minister still remains unresolved," he said.

"At the moment, as far as we are concerned, Prince Ranariddh is still first prime minister, and no new prime minister is coming up," he said.

However, on Wednesday, the Ung Huot welcomed ASEAN mediation efforts and repeated that Cambodia did want to join the ASEAN grouping.

Cambodia still has observer status at ASEAN meetings, despite the coup.

Analysts say ASEAN's latest moves show there may be changes in its policy of constructive engagement and its will to act as a political organization.

Correspondent Maria Ressa and Reuters contributed to this report.


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