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Tuesday, 30 October 2018 09:26
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Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia corporate relationship in the fields of politics-diplomacy and security-national defense

(LLCT) - Over the past years, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have actively implemented their opened, diversified and multilateral foreign policies  while giving high priority to the comprehensive corporate relationship among the three countries. The outcomes achieved in the fields of politics-diplomacy and security-national defense over the past time are the efforts made by the three countries in seeking a model of connected development and cooperation. In order to bring cooperation and connection to a new level, it is necessary to consolidate and develop the traditional friendship and special solidarity as well as enhance the coordination among the three countries by implementing bilateral and multilateral cooperation programs.

1. Bilateral cooperation and connection

a) Vietnam - Laos special relation

In the context of the end of the Cold War and the collapse of socialism of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Vietnam and Laos lost their material and spiritual support dramatically. However, both countries continued to advance quickly on their renewed path while maintaining their political orientation, national security and stability and expanding foreign relations towards diversification and multilateralization. Therefore, apart from the expansion of relations with other countries in the region and in the world, the Vietnam - Laos cooperation relation in the diplomatic field has been boosted in three aspects: Party, state and people’s diplomacy under the motto “Good Neighborliness, Traditional Friendship, Comprehensive Cooperation and Long term stability”. Via senior officials’ meetings, the two parties exchanged their precious experiences in the cause of reforming and building the nations.

During renovation period, Vietnam and Laos had to face destructive activities carried out by hostile forces. In Vietnam, hostile forces, especially counter-revolutionary forces among overseas Vietnamese people, always found ways to “bring fire back to the fatherland”, one of the most robust activities of which was to bring armed groups back to the country via the Vietnam-Laos border route. In Laos, the peaceful evolution activities continued to be carried out by involving, conversing with and inciting negative elements among students, intellectuals and cadres; disseminating, inducing and separating ethnic groups, as well as calling for support from international religious organizations and seeking international intervention. In this circumstance, security cooperation between Vietnam and Laos was an urgent need. Since the 1990s, the Governments and Ministries of Internal Affairs (Now so-called Ministries of Public Security) of the two countries signed agreements and decrees on cooperation and mutual support concerning security protection. The two countries attached much importance to the sharing of information and experience in areas such as force building, anti-penetration, counter-riot and neutralization of hostile forces through peaceful evolution activities. Vietnam always pro-actively took over difficult tasks under the motto “to help friends is to help ourselves”, “friends’ security is also our security”. Vietnam helped Laos consolidate and build a security force which is now fully capable of accomplishing its duty according to requirements of the new situation.

Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense helped Laos build a long-term national defense strategy as well as entire-people and comprehensive national defense guidelines. Vietnam supported Laos in building a strong army in terms of politics, ideology, organization and professional training. Lao army forces were trained in a regular and modern manner with high fighting abilities and therefore full capability of acting as a mainstay for people’s war disposition. Local army forces, militia at hamlet level and mobilized reserve forces were put in place, consolidated and frequently trained. Vietnam also supported Laos in building a national defense strategy for each period and in each region. Security and national defense cooperation continuously developed in all fields, especially in training and education. The two countries continued to coordinate with each other in implementing cooperation agreements concerning security and national defense.

The two countries collaborated on the project of increasing and upgrading border markers along Vietnam and Laos. Additionally, they signed together the Protocol on the Vietnam-Laos Borderline and Markers and Agreement on Regulations on Vietnam-Laos Border and Land Border Gate Management; and continued to increase the number of agreements on solving free migration and unofficial marriage issues in Vietnam-Laos border areas. The search for and reassembling of the remains of Vietnamese patriotic martyrs and voluntary armed soldiers was properly carried out.

b) Vietnam - Cambodia relation

Under the motto “Good Neighborliness, Traditional Friendship, Comprehensive Cooperation and Long term stability”, the Vietnam - Cambodia relation has continuously developed and seen many achievements. Vietnam and Cambodia have frequently arranged mutual visits by important leaders, which confirms the two countries’ wish and determination towards a solidarity, traditional friendship and cooperation, as stated by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni at the meeting with Party General-Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng during his state-level visit to Vietnam in September 2012: “Cambodia and Vietnam are two inseparable countries, the precious relationship between them should be promoted during the period of national building and development”. Strengthened exchanges between ministries, and sectors, including diplomacy, of the people between Vietnam and Cambodia have enabled close relations, especially in border provinces.

The Vietnamese army and the Cambodian army frequently have exchanges of high-level military delegations and sign numerous cooperation documents, which confirms Vietnam’s high appraisal of its friendship and comprehensive cooperation with Cambodia in order to meet the requirements of national protection and building. Up to now, the two countries have completed more than 84% of border demarcation and landmark planting(1) and are determined to finish the work in order to make their border into a border of peace, friendship, cooperation and sustainable development for the common interest of both countries.

c) Cambodia - Laos relations

Since 1991, the relationship between the two countries has been adjusting and updating towards expanding and increasing the cooperation effectiveness and the combination between political diplomacy and economic diplomacy under the motto “Good Neighboring Cooperation, Solidarity, Traditional Friendship and Sustained Stability”.

Over the past years, the two countries have maintained annual meetings between leaders of States, Ministries, agencies and sectors as well as people’s associations. The relationship and cooperation between the two states within the framework of Parties, Governments and legislative agencies have been strengthened and continuously expanded. The State-level friendship visit by Lao State President Bounnhang Vorachith to the Kingdom of Cambodia from February 22 to 23, 2017 was a significant event marking the strengthened friendship and cooperation between the two countries. During the visit, President Bounnhang Vorachith much appreciated the current achievements made by Cambodia and the boosted cooperation in sharing information and experiences between the two countries. Cambodia Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen also stressed the significance of the connection between Cambodia and Laos, particularly between the Southern region of Laos and Northeast Cambodia(2). Frequent visits between the two countries have created mutual trust and understanding, and enhanced the efficiency of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and investment. Currently, the two states are boosting border demarcation and landmark planting, determined to finish the work in order to make their border a place of peace, friendship, cooperation and sustainable development.

2. The framework of regional and global cooperation and connection

After the Cold War, Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia quickly improved relations with Asian countries and joined ASEAN (Vietnam joined ASEAN in 1995, Laos in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999). Now, the friendship and cooperation are not only limited to the bilateral level but have also expanded to the cooperation and mutual support at regional and international forums. The three countries have participated in effective strategies and solutions that are capable of preventing conflicts and creating favorable conditions to build a peaceful, friendly and cooperative environment within ASEAN member countries, accordingly, contributing to the implementation of economic development goals for each country, consolidation of national sovereignty and independence and promotion of regional connections in all fields. Up to now, the three countries together with ASEAN countries have implemented quite effectively many agreements such as “Declaration on ZOPFAN” (1971), “Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia - TAC”, “Declaration of ASEAN Concord” (1976), “Declaration on the Bien Dong (the East Sea - Ed.)” (1992), “ASEAN Regional Forum-ARF (1993), “Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty - SEANWFZ (1996), “ARF Vision to 2020”, Shangri-la Dialogue, ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), ASEAN Defense Chiefs’ Informal Meeting, ASEAN Army Chiefs’ Meeting... The three countries have participated in 26 organizations/multilateral security forums such as Meeting of ASEAN Chiefs of Security Agencies (MACOSA), International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC), ASEAN Association of Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL), Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (2002), Declaration of ASEAN Concord II (October 2003) and Roadmap for an ASEAN Community 2015” including the Initiative to develop an ASEAN Security Community (ASC) and ASEAN Charter 2007. The three countries have also contributed the leading important documents of the Association, creating a legal framework and regime to support ASEAN in increasing regional connection and building the ASEAN Community (AC). The Statement on ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the East Sea (July 2012) has shown common concern and key approach of the Association towards issues on the East Sea, simultaneously indicating ASEAN member countries’ consensus in building and promoting dialogues and cooperation in all exchanged contents in the region. In August 2017, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia together with countries engaged in the East Sea signed an agreement towards the signing of a Code of Conduct (COC) to contribute to maintaining peace and stability in the region. On November 18, 2012, in Cambodia, the three countries together with ASEAN countries signed the “ASEAN Human Rights Declaration” (AHRD) for creating a framework to increase cooperation, promotion and protection of human rights in the region.

Efforts of political-security cooperation of the three countries with the ASEAN Community in the current period are demonstrated in the following aspects: 1) Enhancing cooperation in solving disputes of sovereignty in the East Sea; 2) Consolidating the ARF as an effective means of ensuring regional security; 3) Completing the mechanism of solving disputes between member countries; 4) ASEAN’s amendment to TAC, trying to bring big countries into regional framework; 5) Cooperation in combating drug trafficking across the borders of the three countries, implementing the goal of a drug-free ASEAN, insisting on the roadmap towards the vision of building a drug-free ASEAN Community after year 2020 and considering it an ultimate priority of Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia. In addition, the three countries focus on the prioritized fields of law enforcement cooperation, judicial cooperation, drug demand reduction, HIV/AIDS transmission decrease, alternative plant development and resources’ mobilization(3); consolidating, enhancing and increasing the operating efficiency of border liaison offices (BLO) and supporting and enhancing the capacities of specialized agencies, creating favorable conditions for relevant agencies of the three countries to cross borders; 6) Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia’s building of ASEAN Political-Security Community (ASC-2015) in coordination with ASEAN member countries with the main goal of raising ASEAN political and security cooperation to a new level, ensuring that ASEAN member countries live at peace with one another and with the world in a just, democratic and peaceful environment, contributing to bringing ASEAN as an association to a closely inter-governmental cooperation organization with high connectivity based on the legal foundation of the common Charter.

The Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia special cooperation in the fields of political-security, national defense and borders has great significance in consolidating the friendship solidarity and enhancing cooperation among ASEAN countries, contributing to reinforcing the fundamental principles in the relationship of ASEAN countries for the cause of peace and prosperous development in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia also have close coordination at international forums including the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Non-Alignment Movement, etc.

3. Directions and solutions to promote Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia relations in the fields of politics-diplomacy and security-national defense 

a. Directions

Firstly, activities in the framework of political and diplomatic cooperation should be promoted and diversified. Other international relations should not be lowered and diminished while maintaining the three-country relation. The Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia relationship should be maintained and developed in compliance with the principle of not only abiding by regulations and practices but also prioritizing specific circumstances. Particularly, the principle of mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality, willingness and mutual benefits should be ensured. Directions for cooperation tasks in the political and diplomatic fields are as follows: sustainably maintaining the friendship and solidarity relations between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; deeply and comprehensively developing the currently positive political relation at leader level between the three countries while expanding and deepening the friendship and solidarity on local level and at grassroots, especially among young generations. At the same time, enhancing people and youth exchanges between the three countries and with ASEAN countries; expanding foreign relations while respecting traditional friendly relations, etc.

Secondly, continuing to exchange views on regional and international issues of common interest; enhancing cooperation in the ASEAN framework, developing Southeast Asia into a region of peace, stability, cooperation and prosperous development; affirming continued cooperation and close coordination at regional and international forums such as the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Non-Alignment Movement, ASEM, the Mekong Sub-region, the East-West Corridor, Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia Developing Triangle, etc.

Thirdly, strengthening coordination and sharing of experiences and information in security-national defense to fight against destructive conspiracies by hostile forces, separating the three-country relationship. Paying more attention to expertise and advice in Party work and political work among the army. Enhancing the sharing of information and experiences in the organization, management, and development of local army forces, militia and guerrillas and mobilized reserve forces with the other two countries. Border defense forces of the three countries should be in tight coordination, especially in the field of tracking down transnational criminals and drug-related criminals. Border-sharing provinces of the three countries should strengthen cooperation in all aspects and together build the Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia borderlines into borders of friendship, cooperation and comprehensive and sustainable development.

b. Some solutions

Group of solutions to promote the Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia relationship in the framework of bilateral cooperation and connection

Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia should supplement and amend their policies and rules to encourage and create favorable conditions for the three-country cooperation process. Besides paying attention to concrete effectiveness, the three countries should attach much importance to long-term strategic issues but first of all, general effectiveness should be the top concern (taking the general situation as the most important thing). For politics, the three countries should continue maintaining periodical high-level meetings; encouraging exchanges among sectors, agencies and localities, coordinating in exchanging theories and practices of developing and protecting the country in the new context. For diplomacy, the three countries should enhance meetings and mutual support on regional and international forums, continue closely coordinating with one another on multilateral forums, particularly in activities at the United Nations, ASEAN, the Mekong Sub-region, the task force of developing 3 border areas and cooperation activities in the framework of bilateral cooperation and connection in the region and in the world.

Group of solutions to promote Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia in the framework of regional and international cooperation and connection

The three countries should reach a consensus in common determination and strong action in order to complete in due course and effectively carry out plans regarding the three pillars: Political-Security, Economy and Socio-Culture. Continuing the strengthening of ASEAN connectivity, promoting sustainable development and narrowing development gaps; simultaneously, increasing the sense and action for a Shared Community of mutual support among governments and people of the countries in the region. Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia should enhance cooperation and support in the framework of regional and international cooperation such as: the United Nations, the International Organization of La Francophonie, the Non-Alignment Movement, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Greater Mekong Sub-region Development Program (GMS), the Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), the cooperation among four countries including Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar as well as other projects in the ASEAN framework like the trans-Asia railway and road, “Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia Developing Triangle” program, etc.

Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia should combine the fundamental principles of solidarity and unity with pro-activeness and creativity in dealing with issues, particularly current challenges regarding peace, stability, security and development in the region. Dialogue programs on building and sharing conducts of parties as well as preventing conflicts should be fostered. Commitments as stipulated in documents such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, and the Declaration on Conducts of Parties in the East Sea should be strictly implemented while dispute differences should be solved based on international law and in the spirit of ASEAN solidarity.

Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia should continuously expand comprehensive cooperation relations with external partners, pro-actively creating favourable conditions and encourage partners to participate in building and actively contributing to the common goal of peace, stability and development in the region, as well as practically supporting ASEAN in building the community and enhancing connections and connectivity in response to the challenges that lay ahead. In order to preserve the central role and status of the association in the region, Vietnam - Laos - Cambodia, together with ASEAN, should pay attention to consolidating this solidarity, keeping their viewpoint and common voice in regional and international issues of common interest and mutual benefits.

Endnotes:

(1) “Cambodia’s continued development for the sake of its people”, http: vov.vn.

(2) “Cambodia and Laos’s strengthened bilateral cooperation”, http: nhandan.com.vn.

(3) “Enhancing the sharing of information for coordinating the arrest of drug-related crime”, http: nhandan.com.vn.

 

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Thi Que

MA. Nguyen Thi Minh Thao

Institute for International Relations,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 

 

 

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