Your Royal Highnesses,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour for my country, the Kingdom of Cambodia, to attend the 32nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in her capacity as a new Member of ASEAN. On this occasion, and once again, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all my fellow colleagues the Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and their respective governments for the support rendered towards the admission of Cambodia into the ASEAN Family, with which my country has decided to bind its future for the sake of peace, stability, common security and prosperity in our region of Southeast Asia.
I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to His Excellency Goh Chok Tong, Prime Minister of Singapore for his significant and thoughtful Opening Address, which has strongly inspired us to intensify our efforts in building Southeast Asia into a vibrant zone of peace, friendship, cooperation and strong socioeconomic growth.
I am very pleased to join my ASEAN colleagues in warmly congratulating His Excellency Professor S. Jayakumar on His election as Chairman of the Meeting and His Excellency Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand as Vice-Chairman. I am fully convinced that, with their rich experiences and their talented leadership in guiding our works our meeting will be crowned with success.
With the new opportunity of total peace and stability, the RGC has put forth and implemented major reform plans in a number of sectors, notably:
Military and police demobilization and the public sector reform, including the reform of the civil service and the judiciary, aimed at strengthening democracy, improving the efficiency of the Public services and enhancing the rule of law;
Economic reform, focusing on fiscal reform measures, ensuring a sound management of public property and increasing public investment in the area of physical and social infrastructure;
Priority is given by the RGC to natural resources management and environmental protection, especially the forest sector reform. In this area, the RGC has taken a number of immediate measures and is preparing a policy and legal framework and regulations and developing institutional capacity in order to ensure an efficient management of Cambodia’s forest resources.
Through these reform programs, the RGC hopes to be able to ensure a favorable environment conducive to promoting economic activities and further strengthening the confidence of foreign investors in Cambodia. Indeed, as part of the region, Cambodia has not been immune from the adverse effect of the financial crisis. It is estimated that this year, the GDP reaches 4%, and we believe that from the year 2000 it will grow up to 7%. Inflation rate would be contained at 5 percent.
In addition, the introduction of the Value-Added-tax (VAT) has progressively shifted Cambodia’s fiscal year structure from reliance on customs duties to domestic taxes. The share of domestic tax revenue rose from 45% of tax revenue in the first five months of 1998 to 54% of tax revenue in the same period of 1999. At the same time, the share of customs revenue decreased from 55% to 46% of tax revenue. This significant improvement of the share of domestic tax revenue reinforced the positive trend registered in the previous year and constituted a favorable condition for Cambodia’s integration into ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA).
The Vision of ASEAN Founding Fathers has been realized. ASEAN has finally become Ten, testifying strength, unity and success. ASEAN has become a driving force for peace and active cooperation for the sake of economic growth and common prosperity in the region. I strongly believe that if ASFAN continues to stand together and remain united, ASEAN family will remain strong and be able to cope with challenges of any kind in the next millenium. Ingredients have been put to make it possible.
First, ASEAN has laid down schemes such as ZOPFAN, TAC and SEANWFZ to protect security not only in Southeast Asia, but also for the Asia Pacific region. These blueprints will ensure peace, stability, security and a region free from violence or threat of violence and use of force. The Convening of the Commission for Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (SEANWFZ) in this 32nd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting reaffirm the commitment of ASEAN to implement the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, thus contributing to peace and stability in the region and the world it large. I am particularly pleased to note that the ASEAN Senior Officials Working Group continued its consultations with the Nuclear Weapons States with a view to obtaining their support for the SEANWFZ Treaty. For the sake of peace worldwide, we must make our efforts to contribute to eventually eliminate all other weapons of mass destruction.
Second, ASEAN has moved forward with various economic integration schemes, coming now to implement AFTA and going to establish a large investment area. The ASEAN Vision 2020, adopted on 15 December 1997 in Kuala Lumpur, clearly set out the objectives to build Southeast Asia into a concert of Southeast Asian Nations, outward looking, living together in peace, stability and prosperity, bonded together in dynamic partnership and in a community of caring societies. Cambodia as a new member of ASEAN will closely work with other members of the family to turn ASEAN Vision 2020 into reality. The Hanoi Plan of Action constitutes the first miles road towards the realisation of this Vision. The successful implementation of this first six year programme is very essential.
The whole world is facing a new challenge of economic as well as political changes. The financial crisis and the strong competition in trade have requested new efforts of our Grouping to strengthen our functional and economical cooperation, and to go ahead with pressing reforms in order to cope with the international economic order.
As now, ASEAN has encompassed all Ten Southeast Asian Countries with its population of almost 500 millions, enabling our organization to play a productive role in the world commensurate to the vast potentials existing in our region.
Our entry into the next millenium will be hallmarked by worldwide trends of rapid regionalisation and globalisation which confer upon all of us within ASEAN moral and political obligations to forge our organization into a dynamic and vibrant locomotive of sustainable development to challenge the transformation of the world in the forthcoming century.
The voice of ASEAN is crucial. We must think in a common approach despite the wealth of ideas, suggestions and initiatives. We must speak with one voice. ASEAN is rather a strength grouping all the Southeast Asia nations. Our unity is vital. I believe that my Distinguished Colleagues share my views that on the threshold of the 3rd millenium ASEAN solidarity is more needed than ever before. This reinforces my belief that together, we will overcome difficulties and gain our strength needed for future generations to come.
The strength of ASEAN rests naturally in its unity within diversity, with our rich cultural heritages and economic potentials to share. But it will depend on all of us on how to coordinate our views and our actions to promote development and prosperity, and to maintain peace, security and cooperation not only in our Southeast Asian region, but also in the whole Asia Pacific region and all over the world.
In conclusion, let me extend my sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Singapore for the generous hospitality accorded to our delegation and the excellent arrangement for the meeting.
Thank you for your attention