Cambodia envoy still a no-show

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Aug 03 2012 02:12 AM | Updated as of Aug 03 2012 10:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Cambodia’s top diplomat in the Philippines still has not shown up at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) despite being summoned to explain his serious accusations against the host government.

DFA sources said that the department is giving Cambodian Ambassador Hos Sereythonh time to appear at the DFA to meet with Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio.

Hos has not appeared at the DFA despite official summons, claiming he has the flu.

DFA said the ambassador cannot ignore his host government’s summons, which could be reason to declare a diplomat persona non grata, but that might be “too harsh.”

“It’s a diplomatic practice, you come if invited. Any diplomat knows the consequence if he does not come after being summoned. The role of an ambassador is ‘to make friends and win friends for your country.’ Let’s wait, let’s give him time,” a source told The STAR.

Sources said the DFA believe it was not appropriate for a diplomat to communicate his anger without first holding discussions with the host government.

“Why did he not see the DFA first?” another source said.

A former DFA official and retired diplomat, who requested anonymity, said the ambassador should be given warning if he still fails to appear at the DFA.

“He claims health reasons but that’s subject to proof. He can’t just ignore a request of the host government and claim health reasons,” he said.

The retired diplomat said, “I think informally this should be discussed between the capitals and if at all, quietly.”

“After all, Cambodia and the Philippines are ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) members. I don’t know if Phnom Penh has already talked to him (Hos) or not. My concern is this thing should not exacerbate further the uneasy relations between the Philippines and Cambodia,” he added.

The ambassador was summoned again on Tuesday but he informed the DFA that he was unable to come as he was indisposed and had to be represented by Cambodian embassy Second Secretary Tan Chandaravuth.

The DFA asked Hos to authorize the release to the public of evidence which should end all speculation on what really happened in Phnom Penh last month when the chairman objected to the issuance of a joint communiqué.

Hos was originally summoned to appear at the DFA on Monday but begged off for health reasons.

The DFA will continue summoning the ambassador even as the note verbale containing the protest for Hos’ serious accusations against the Philippines was handed to Tan by Basilio.

Basilio asked Tan to convey to the ambassador the need to explain what were laid down and the serious accusations he made in his letter to the editor published in The STAR.

The DFA pointed out that Basilio was present in all the meetings in Phnom Penh and the ambassador was not.

Hos was also asked by the DFA to explain his accusation that “dirty politics” was behind the “inflexible and non-negotiable” position of the Philippines and Vietnam on the inclusion of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China in the joint communiqué.

When asked if the ambassador could be declared persona non grata, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said, “We are not going there yet.”

“What is important is for him to explain to us what he meant by the statement that he had released or written in that letter to the editor in The Philippine STAR.”

The DFA defended Basilio from Hos’ accusation that she had tried to manipulate, distort and exaggerate developments in the West Philippine Sea involving China in order to make her case.

Hos had also claimed that Basilio’s article, “What happened in Phnom Penh?” represented the country’s official position.

Basilio, Hernandez said, is “a professional diplomat with an unblemished record of nearly 50 years of service to the country.”

“Her statements were objective, factual and true,” he said.