Cambodia is once again at the heart of ASEAN problems in relation to the disputes associated with the South China Sea. Reports that it has not been possible for the ASEAN ministers meeting in Vientiane to find an agreed form of words about the issue should surely be no surprise, however regrettable this might be.

As Hun Sen deals with criticisms of his family's involvement in the kingdom's business affairs by Global Witness, with allegations of secret deals and probable corruption, and the furore that has followed the recent execution-style killing of one of the CPP government's most vocal critics, Kem Ley, the Cambodian leader has not taken a backward step from his pro-Chinese position on the South China Sea dispute.

Just as was the case in 2012, when Cambodia, as ASEAN chair, prevented ASEAN from issuing an agreed communique because of its support of China's position, Hun Sen has continued to support China's stated policy that it will only deal with disputed issues and claims on a bilateral basis.

This reiteration follows several recent statements by Hun Sen in which he castigates critics of his position, including unnamed fellow ASEAN members

Cambodia is deeply dependent on China for aid, as Hun Sen has repeatedly stated, including most recently when he excoriated European countries that suggested aid to Cambodia might be cut because of its human rights record. China has long been Cambodia's principal aid donor and has very recently announced the provision of a further $600 milllion in aid to the country. And once again Hun Sen maintains there are no strings attached.

How ASEAN deals with this continuing problem is a matter for speculation, but for the moment there is little to no chance that Hun Sen will change his position.

Photo courtesy of Flickr use iwishmynamewasmarsha