Losing the Limelight

FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — Cambodia rarely gets the chance to shine on the international stage. A decade ago it scored kudos for its first-time effort as chair to the ten-nation Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a significant milestone for a country that was still struggling after 30 years of war.

Phnom Penh’s diplomats revelled in the summits that came with the job and in the company of their guests, including America’s then-secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Japan’s prime minister at the time, Junichiro Koizumi. The dignitaries lent an unprecedented air of political celebrity to the capital.

Since then, however, Cambodia’s external relations have changed. With billions of dollars of aid at stake, Cambodia has snuggled up to China and become its de-facto proxy within ASEAN. The attendance of Hillary Clinton, as America’s current secretary of state, could not make the same impression as Mr Powell’s. And China arrived with every reason to try taking advantage of its new leverage as Cambodia played host to the block for its second summit in Phnom Penh. Read more in The Economist.

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