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Cambodia recalls envoy to Philippines

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Cambodia recalled its Ambassador to Manila following his remarks accusing the Philippines and Vietnam of “dirty politics” in pushing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations members for a common stand on the West Philippine Sea dispute.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said Friday morning that the Cambodian Foreign Ministry and the Cambodian Embassy in Manila separately informed the DFA of the Ambassador Hos Sereythonh’s recall.

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“It is the prerogative of governments to appoint or to recall ambassadors, as they deem fit and appropriate,” said Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the foreign office’s official spokesman.

“Cambodia is an Asean member and a friend.  We hope that Cambodia will help reinforce the friendship that exists between our two countries,” he added.

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The DFA summoned Hos last week over his published remarks lashing out at Manila and Hanoi for being “inflexible” in July’s Asean ministers’ meeting in Phnom Penh.

The body failed to issue a joint communiqué following the talks because of disagreements on the West Philippine Sea issue.

In a strongly worded letter published in a national daily last week, Hos accused the Philippines and Vietnam of stalling last month’s talks among Asean foreign ministers in Phnom Penh by pushing an “inflexible and non-negotiable” position on territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, the name by which the Philippine government refers to the South China Sea.

The letter was in response to an article written by Foreign Undersecretary  for Policy Erlinda Basilio—“What happened in Phnom Penh”— which sought to shed light on Asean’s failure to issue a joint communiqué on the Spratlys debate after last month’s Asean ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh. The absence of a joint communiqué was unprecedented in Asean’s 45-year history.

The recall of the ambassador, rare among members of the Asean, happened as the bloc celebrated its 45th anniversary, an event which brought together calls for greater unity among member nations despite disputes.

Saying he was sick, Hos did not heed the DFA’s repeated summons last week and instead sent his Second Secretary Tan Chandaravuth to accept the note verbale seeking his explanation. Tan, who attended a DFA event on Friday, also refused to comment on the issue.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Del Rosario in a separate interview said that the ambassador was scheduled to leave on August 17.

Asked how this was going to affect the relations between Cambodia and the Philippines, Del Rosario said, “I don’t think it affects the bilateral relations at all and I’d like to think we’re looking forward to healthy bilateral relations with Cambodia.”

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Del Rosario said Cambodia did not explain the decision to pull out its envoy.

“All we received was a note verbale to say that he was being replaced,” Del Rosario told reporters on the sidelines of DFA’s celebration of Asean’s 45th anniversary.

However, a reliable source from the Cambodian Embassy in Manila said that Hos was being recalled because of the article he wrote and the accusations he made against the Philippines and Vietnam.

The source said that Cambodia’s move was made to defuse long-simmering tensions over the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Asked if he believed Hos wrote the article without clearance from his foreign ministry, Del Rosario said, “I don’t think an ambassador can move on his own.”

Hernandez said the Cambodian Foreign Ministry sent a note verbale relaying its decision to recall the envoy to the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh on August 3, four days after the Philippines protested Hos’ letter.

The DFA main office in Manila also received notice about the recall from the Cambodian embassy here earlier this week.

Hernandez said the DFA was taking the recall “at face value” but noted that it happened after Manila’s protest of Hos’ statement.

He said Cambodia is in the process of selecting Hos’ replacement and has requested the facilitation of Manila’s acceptance of a new envoy.

“The Philippines and Cambodia have maintained bilateral relations for the past 55 years. Initiatives for joint cooperation and partnership are progressing steadily. The appointment of a new ambassador as well as the request for facilitation of the agrément attests to the continued commitment to strengthen relations,” Hernandez said.

“I don’t think it affects the bilateral relations at all. We’re looking forward to healthy bilateral relations with Cambodia,” said Del Rosario.

Originally posted: 9:27 am | Friday, August 10th, 2012

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TAGS: Cambodia, Conflict, DFA, dispute, Foreign Affairs and International relations, West Philippine Sea
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