Good Evening, Your Excellency, Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, Deputy Prime Minister HOR Namhong, Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen,
Thank you for your invitation to the ASEAN Lecture here in Phnom Penh, to mark the 45th birthday of our group.
Over the past few weeks, we have faced questions about the future of ASEAN. I believe the results of the hard work of Dr Marty Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia, and Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, had answered those doubts in some way.
Among all the ASEAN Member States, Cambodia had endured some of the toughest challenges in our modern history. But under the leadership and guidance of Samdech Hun Sen, Cambodia and its people met those challenges with perseverance, and determination, and carved out a brave, new future.
Today, ASEAN Member States are enjoying the fruits of peace, stability, and development, brought by years of commitment and hard work by ASEAN and our partners. But there's still a lot of challenges ahead of us.
The US Ambassador to ASEAN, Mr David Carden, said ASEAN’s work is tough, that’s why they are here to help.
On Monday, I received the Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN, Madam Yang Xiuping. She is also looking forward to a meaningful time working with us.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Foreign Ministers signed the Zone of Peace, Friendship, and Neutrality, or ZOPFAN declaration in Kuala Lumpur 41 years ago.
As we celebrate our 45 birthday today, there is a clear and present need for ASEAN to take the ZOPFAN values onto a higher plane.
Cambodia had reminded us that we are “One Community, One Destiny”. And it is not just ASEAN which share a common destiny. In our closely-connected world today, our Dialogue Partners, Non-Dialogue Partners – our fortunes are already so intertwined, that we need to be aware of what is happening, and what do WE need to do in such an environment.
We are facing economic uncertainties in many parts of the world. We are fortunate that we are still growing, and our economies are still healthy. But we need to stay focus, and stay united to pull through these uncertain times.
We have good reasons to be confident of what we can do.
Last year, intra-ASEAN trade accounted for 25 percent of our total trade, surpassing that with China, which accounted for 11.7 percent. Even then, ASEAN’s bilateral trade with China remains a crucial cornerstone of our economic architecture. It is expected to surpass its target of US$500 billion by 2015.
Our growth in Asia represents one of the most crucial economic engines in the world today. If we add India to the equation, we boast a formidable market of more than 3-billion. We have a responsibility to stay relevant and economically healthy. If we were to squabble, and worst, fight among ourselves, the impact will be global. And the first to suffer will be our people.
Within our family, we have agreed to re-visit the ASEAN Charter again 5 years after its birth. I have always championed the need to have a professional Secretariat to serve the needs of the community. At various times, several members have expressed similar sentiments.
As our world evolves, ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat will need to
keep pace. We will have to reckon with how our people think about ASEAN in due course. And how well we respond to their needs, will influence how well ASEAN develop.
You have been actively engaging young Cambodians in all our activities. I have also asked my staff to include the children in our celebrations today. It is a reminder that they will determine how much of a legacy we leave behind, and where that legacy will lead us.
Let us look forward to another 45 years of peace, stability, and development.
Thank You, and God Blessed.
Dr Surin Pitsuwan