Mr. Chairman,

Your Royal Highnesses,

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I am deeply impressed by the inspiring inaugural address of H.E. Mr. Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore in the common interests of the Southeast Asian Nations. I would like to take this opportunity to express our profound appreciation to the Government and people of Singapore for the warm hospitality accorded to my delegation and for the excellent arrangements made for this meeting,

I would like to congratulate our Chairman, H.E. Prof. S. Jayakumar who has guided us with his rich experience and diplomatic skill in the last twelve months, and it is my conviction that under his chairmanship our meeting will be crowned with success.

Today, I am greatly pleased to join other ASEAN Colleagues in expressing our very warm welcome to H.E. Mr. Hor Nam Hong, Senior Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of the Kingdom of Cambodia who is joining us for the first time as full-fledged member of ASEAN.

Mr. Chairman,

Although armed conflicts have erupted in many parts of the world over the past year, peace and development co-operation remain to be the trend of the global developments. Normal relations among the major powers continue to serve as a factor guaranteeing the peace and stability, and to create an atmosphere conducive to co-operation in the Asia-Pacific region.

As far as Southeast Asia is concerned, it is in better situation than it was last year. While intensifying relations among themselves, individual ASEAN member countries have been taking measures consistent with their respective peculiarities which can diminish the impacts of the financial crisis, thus allowing some members’ economies to begin recovering and regaining confidence from our dialogue partners and others.

Over the past year, the brilliant success of the Sixth ASEAN Summit, the realisation of the vision of the ASEAN’s founders to build an association comprising all ten Southeast Asian countries have become events of historic significance in the region. These achievements have attested to our continued holding to the values and fundamental principles of ASEAN to move towards the next millennium with cohesive solidarity, self-determination and expanded external relations.

It is our profound recognition that to develop our region toward prosperity, it is most necessary to secure a peaceful and stable environment. Therefore, along with the promotion of the spirit of ASEAN self-reliance and resilience, we have attached great importance to the broadening of external relations, continuing to play a leading role in the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Mr. Chairman,

The ASEAN history shows that our association has not grown without turbulence. The important is that we have been seeking together ways and means to overcome difficulties by enhancing our prime-mover role, strengthening our unity and co-ordination. Therefore, with its extensive experience and enormous potential, ASEAN 10 could realise the Hanoi Plan of Action to achieve sustainable development and to gradually narrow the gap in the levels of economic development among the ASEAN member countries and bring about a bright future for ASEAN.

On the part of the Lao PDR, we will continue to fulfill our commitments toward ASEAN, to maintain national political and social stability. Our further effort will be made to address current economic difficulties by developing all potentials of the country, applying the mechanism of market economy and pursuing the policy of expanding external relations which have produced positive primary results. We will also join other ASEAN member countries in further contributing toward peace, stability and prosperity in the region and in the world.

Thank you.