PHNOM PENH, Oct 29 (Xinhua): Cambodia has taken up the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2022, vowing to enhance the bloc’s centrality, unity and development in all fields.
Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen received the Asean chairmanship hammer from Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, chair of ASEAN for 2021, at the end of the 38th and 39th summits held via video conference.
This is the third time Cambodia leads Asean since it became a full-fledged member of the 10-country bloc in 1999. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of the Asean chairmanship, Hun Sen said he was proud that Cambodia took on the ASEAN chairmanship for 2022.
“As the chair of Asean in 2022, Cambodia will steer Asean’s collective efforts to accomplish our important tasks, especially expediting the building process of an equitable, strong, and inclusive Asean Community, which are in line with core spirit of Asean: One Vision, One Identity and One Community,” he said.
For political and security area, Hun Sen said Cambodia will focus on strengthening Asean centrality and unity. Also, Asean must be resilient and strong against the pressure and influence stemming from rising geo-political competition, transnational crime, terrorism, climate change and infectious diseases, etc. to ensure its way forward in peace, security, and prosperity, he said.
On the economic front, Cambodia will promote effective implementation of all initiatives and measures agreed as well as leverage trade agreements to the maximum so as to expedite the recovery of economic growth in the post-Covid-19 period.
Hun Sen added that the kingdom will do its best to ensure that Asean remains an attractive and dynamic hub for trade and investment by enhancing both physical and digital connectivity, strengthening the capacity of micro, small and medium sized enterprises and promoting the entrepreneurship amongst women and youth.
On the socio-cultural side, he said Cambodia will strengthen the development of human resources to respond to the needs on the ground for community building, promote the participation of women and youth in building and maintaining peace, and develop an inclusive social protection system.
Another key priority is strengthening people-to-people bonds to enhance the spirit of One Asean Identity, he said.
“By and large, Cambodia will continue to mobilize support and cooperation to achieve the goal of building the three Asean communities, in line with the Asean Community Vision 2025,” Hun Sen said.
“As the chair of Asean in 2022, Cambodia is committed to leading Asean under the theme “Asean A.C.T.: Addressing Challenges Together” for harmony, peace, and prosperity in the whole region,” he said.
Experts said 2022 will be a challenging year for Asean as the bloc is facing key challenges such as post-pandemic socio-economic recovery, unfolding political crisis in Myanmar, geopolitical rivalries, QUAD, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue among the United States, Japan, Australia and India, and AUKUS, the military pact among the US, Britain and Australia, among others.
“To address these issues, Asean needs to advance and deepen regional integration and connectivity, and interdependence is one of the key foundations of peace and prosperity,” Chheang Vannarith, president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute, told Xinhua.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said to deal with these challenges, Cambodia should carry out silent diplomacy and consultation to find common ground for regional cooperation among countries in the region.