OP ED | Opinion-Editorial | ASEAN Summit in Cambodia: Harbinger of regional growth and stability

EDITORIAL |

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After two years of online meetings due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cambodia welcomes the presence in Phnom Penh of 10 heads of state and their top-level dialogue partners at the ASEAN Summit on Nov. 10-13. This follows the celebration last August of ASEAN’s 55th year.

Joining them are US President Joe Biden, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. These leaders will also meet with the heads of state in separate summits dedicated to strengthening their ties with ASEAN.

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Other summits with Korea, India, and Russia will be held, with the participation of President Yoon Suk-yeol, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar and Foreign Minister Sergei Larov, respectively.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will chair this year’s summit at which he and other ASEAN leaders will meet with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, ASEAN Youth, and ASEAN Business Advisory Council. They will also attend the 2nd ASEAN Global Dialogue on Post Covid–19 recovery which will be participated by the heads of several major international organizations.

ASEAN’s 55th anniversary theme, Stronger Together, is complemented by Cambodia’s chosen theme, Addressing Challenges Together. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is composed of the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

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In the anniversary celebration last August, the importance of ASEAN centrality was emphasized as this is the foundation upon which the regional organization has demonstrated the strength of its solidarity through five and a half decades.

As the ASEAN chair, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhorn has declared: “It is the ASEAN centrality that is the primary driving force behind our substantive dialogue and cooperation with our external partners, particularly in the context of all ASEAN-led mechanisms.”  He also congratulated ASEAN’s achievements in upholding the dialogues, economic integration, digitalization, and cooperation with external partners.

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Participating in his first ASEAN summit, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. will have at least two bilateral meetings with the Cambodian Prime Minister and the Republic of Korea President. In his conversations with his fellow leaders, the President will also raise his concerns on food and energy security, on the South China Sea, on climate change and on post-pandemic economic recovery.

The sharpness of focus on key issues would likely be enhanced significantly by the cordiality of face-to-face engagement which could not be attained in previous online meetings. This presents a singular opportunity for President Marcos to establish rapport with other state leaders that he would be meeting for the first time.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will hand over the gavel of the ASEAN chair to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the next ASEAN chair, at the closing ceremony. Beyond this summit, it is hoped that significant progress will be achieved in firming up Asian economic integration that bodes well for accelerating growth, cultural development, social progress, and regional peace and stability.

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