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The decision by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to postpone Cambodia’s entry to the group is an effective measure that will pressure the country to resolve its political crisis, according to Yukio Imagawa, Japan’s former ambassador to Cambodia.

Second Prime Minister Hun Sen “hoped to obtain membership of ASEAN because acceptance to the regional group will help remove negative images of Cambodia,” Imagawa told a press conference July 11 at the Japan National Press Club. Other international pressure such as freezing economic aid will not be very effective because such aid is aimed at helping Cambodian people, not political parties, Imagawa said.

The United States has announced a 30-day freeze of its economic assistance to Cambodia, while Tokyo intends to delay its assistance until acceptable stability is secured. Imagawa visited Cambodia late last month as a special envoy of Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto. He called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between First Prime Minister Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen.

Imagawa and French special envoy Claude Martin were asked by the Group of Seven nations and Russia to meet with Cambodia’s feuding leaders and convey their “sense of deep concern” over escalating conflicts that are threatening the integration of the fragile coalition government. Imagawa said at the press conference that the current political crisis is an internal conflict between Ranariddh and Hun Sen and that the ousting of Ranariddh was not a coup d’etat.

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