at the Opening Ceremony of the
38th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
Don Chan Palace Hotel, Vientiane, 26 July 2005

Your Royal Highness,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and the Lao people as well as on my own behalf, I would like to extend the most cordial greetings and warmest welcome to the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN, Papua New Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste, the ASEAN Secretary General, all delegates and distinguished guests.

The Government of the Lao PDR feels highly honored to host the 38th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, Post Ministerial Conferences and the 12th ASEAN Regional Forum. I earnestly hope that these meetings will contribute significantly to advancing our Association on a firm ground towards the realization of an ASEAN Community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since its inception in 1967, ASEAN has gone through various stages of dynamic development and recorded important achievements, in spite of difficulties and challenges. ASEAN has now become the most successful regional grouping of  developing nations, comprising all ten Southeast Asian countries bonded together in striving for shared interest of peace, stability and prosperity. ASEAN has also become a significant force of peace, stability, promotion of cooperation and development in Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the world at large.

After nearly four decades of evolution, ASEAN is reaching a crucial stage of its development that is to transform itself from a dynamic and resilient Association into a dynamic, integrated and harmonious Community by 2020. That objective was set out by the ASEAN Leaders in the Bali Concord II that they signed at the 9th ASEAN Summit in Bali, Indonesia in October 2003. In our endeavour to achieve this long-term objective, the ASEAN Leaders at their 10th ASEAN Summit last November in Vientiane, Laos, adopted the Vientiane Action Programms ( VAP ) and three Plans of Action to build the ASEAN Community based on three main pillars: the ASEAN Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community ( AEC ) and the ASEAN Social and Cultural Community (ASCC). Therefore, the implementation of the VAP and these Plans of Action will constitute the first step in reaching our ultimate goal of building the ASEAN Community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this point, ASEAN has clearly set its own blueprint and long-term objective. We also have at our disposal the Plans of Action to attain the said objective. However, how to materialize such important decisions made by the ASEAN Leaders remains a daunting task. In light of the above, I do believe that the 38th AMM and related Meetings will provide a golden opportunity to foster practical cooperation. Therefore, under the theme “ Towards the Harmony, Dynamism and Integration of ASEAN “, the Ministers and delegates should jointly assess opportunities and challenges for ASEAN in the current regional and global context, identify immediate and long-term priorities in various areas of cooperation, find out practical ways and means, including the mobilization of resources to implement the decisions made by the 10th ASEAN Summit with a view to achieving specific objectives set out in the above-mentioned Plans of Action.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Harmony, dynamism and integration are crucial requirements for the continued development of our Association in the coming years. In the past, ASEAN has spared no efforts in that direction, but there is still much to be done in concert to ensure that ASEAN truly becomes a harmonious, dynamic and integrated community. First and foremost, it is essential that ASEAN member countries have a common understanding on how to achieve that undertaking at this critical juncture.

Past experiences have shown that a key factor leading to the success of ASEAN in the last decades is the harmonious combination of national interests and regional ones. This is the right recognition of the reality that although ASEAN member countries are very diverse, they share common interest in peace, stability and prosperity for each country and for the region as a whole. This is the true meaning of the “unity in diversity” of ASEAN. Therefore, we should continue our efforts to maintain such a harmonious combination in the process of building our ASEAN Community. Anything contrary to that could affect the basic foundation for the further development of ASEAN.

The harmonious combination of national interests and community interests would be much visible by the extent of the ASEAN integration into the process of building the ASEAN Community. While realizing the importance of the ASEAN integration, especially in the economic field in the context of globalization and economic interdependence, ASEAN has adopted the Initiative for ASEAN Integration ( IAI ), the VAP and other Plans of Action which are currently underway and yield some preliminary results. One of our immediate priorities is to expeditiously narrow the economic development gap within ASEAN and that between ASEAN and other regions. The agreement reached at the 10th ASEAN Summit to establish an ASEAN Development Fund to be signed by the Ministers on this occasion constitutes another important step towards that direction. Nevertheless, I am of the view that ASEAN should deploy more efforts to this end and only by doing so, we will ensure the success of building an ASEAN Community bonded together in shared development, prosperity and harmony.

Furthermore, with the continuously hike in oil price, there is a need for ASEAN to pay more attention to the cooperation on energy as previously agreed by the Leaders at the 10th ASEAN Summit. This aims to mitigate the adverse impact on the economy of ASEAN as a whole as well as on the vulnerable economy of ASEAN new member countries in particular. I noted that one of the energy sectors that can be of benefit to our region on a regular basis is the joint investment in building hydro-power dams which would not only supply cheaper energy to our region than the oil-based energy, but would also enhance closer relations of intra-ASEAN economic development as well as help narrow the economic disparities within ASEAN.

Another key factor that makes our Association unique and successful is a set of established fundamental principles, especially those of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and decision-making by consensus. This set of principles which demonstrates ASEAN’s respect and appreciation of national identity and diversity of member countries, has been successfully tested by time since its establishment. Past experiences show that ASEAN has firmly adhered to these fundamental principles, while still being able to adopt a dynamic and flexible approach in addressing issues of mutual concern. Bearing this in mind, I am of the view that we should maintain those fundamental principles to serve as a basis for the dynamic development of ASEAN in the long run, even when the ASEAN Community is actually established.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cooperation for development has now become the major trend of our contemporary world.  We have clearly witnessed that diverse forms and  scope of cooperation have taken  place within  and among the regions thus providing a strong boost to the world economic growth.  Past achievements of ASEAN are closely associated with external cooperation. Since its inception, ASEAN has carried out its outward-looking policy. The ASEAN+3 cooperation framework has been continuously developed in many fields through existing mechanisms which would lay a firm foundation for the establishment of an East Asia Community in the future. The cooperation with other dialogue partners namely the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, Russia and the US has also been further enhanced. Later this year, ASEAN will host the ASEAN-Russian Federation Summit back to back with the First East Asia Summit. In addition, there will be the Second ASEAN-UN Summit in this coming September. In the field of economy and trade, ASEAN started negotiations with the People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and New Zealand on FTA and CEP respectively.

On the whole, we are satisfied with the successful implementation of this outward-looking policy. However, we should further study in depth that policy vis-a-vis the Plus three process, East Asia Summit and Sub-Regional Development Cooperation frameworks in order to transform it into an overall powerful strength for the establishment of our ASEAN Community.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While the Nations are delighted to witness the many achievements resulting from development cooperation among countries and regions, humankind is faced with a number of serious threats, especially acts of terrorism.  This scourge has caused great loss of innocent life and property and continued to defy the aspiration of nations to live in a peaceful, friendly and prosperous environment.

In the past, ASEAN in close collaboration with the international community,  has strongly condemned the inhumane terrorism in all its forms and manifestation and resorted to various ways and means in the fight against it.  It is my belief that the international community will continue to work together in addressing the root causes of terrorism without any prejudice to religion, race or ethnic background.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since becoming a full-fledged member of ASEAN in 1997, Laos has actively participated in all activities of the Association and made positive contributions to the build-up of unity and cooperation of ASEAN. Especially, in the past year, since taking over the Chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee, the Lao PDR has done its utmost to contribute further to the ASEAN development, as demonstrated by the successful hosting of the 10th ASEAN Summit and I earnestly hope that the 38th AMM and related Meetings in Vientiane will also be crowned with brilliant success.

I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our policy of full commitment to the objective of building an ASEAN Community, and continue to be a responsible and active member of ASEAN.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In ASEAN, we have come to realize that we have different strength and weakness. But we can also apply the strength of a given member country to complement and address the weakness of another member country and vice-versa. To ensure the implementation of the decisions adopted by our Leaders and to reach the ultimate objective of peace, stability and prosperity, we have no other alternative, but to intensify our cooperation for the fruitful implementation of what we have agreed upon namely the VAP, the Plans of Action of the ASC, AEC and ASCC. I am confident that ASEAN will be able to fulfill its goal with our shared interest in harmony, dynamism and integration.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to the ASEAN Ministers and delegates. I would also like to convey through you my sincere gratitude to your Leaders for their kind cooperation and support extended to the Lao PDR during its Chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee thus enabling our country to contribute positively to the common interest of ASEAN that is for peace and the prosperous development of Southeast Asia.

In that spirit, I wish the 38th AMM and related Meetings a brilliant success. On this auspicious occasion, may I now officially declare the 38th AMM opened.