With Cambodia and Laos as loyal allies of China, Southeast Asia needs a new approach for effective security cooperation. Now, a scandal caused by a retired Singaporean diplomate opens the door for an overdue debate.
Normally, a diplomate’s nature is to operate in the shadows, even after retiring. Hence, a deviation from this norm attracts attention and sometimes even more. That also applied to Singapore’s Bilahari Kausikan who participated in a public digital round table discussion in October . Kausikan mentioned the possibility that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) might one day be forced to expel Cambodia and Laos due to their close relationship with the People’s Republic of China. From his point of view, both states subordinate their loyalty to fellow ASEAN member states to the Chinese interests in the region. Kausikan criticized Cambodia and Laos for their reservation in sensitive issue, calling it “passive neutrality”. In a publication based on the webinar, the former diplomate further states that “neutrality does not mean lying low and hoping for the best.”