ASSALAMU’ALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKAATUH BISMILLAHIR RAHMAANIR RAHIM
ALHAMDULILLAHI RABBIL ‘ALAMEEN, WASSALATU WASSALAMU ‘ALAA ASYRAFIL MURSALEEN SAYYIDINA MUHAMMADIN, WA ‘ALAA AALIHIE WASAHBIHIE AJMA’EEN, WABA’DU.
Mr. Prime Minister
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be in Bangkok. I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Government and people of the Kingdom of Thailand for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate His Majesty on the 50th Anniversary of his accession to the throne.
I congratulate you, Your Excellency Mr. Prime Minister, on your election as Chairman of the Fifth ASEAN Summit.
I would also like to extend a special welcome to His Excellency Vo Van Kiet, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the newest member of the ASEAN family.
We last met in Singapore in 1992, some three years ago. ASEAN was preoccupied then with the end of the Cold War. We were anxious that the rapid changes following the collapse of the Soviet Union would affect Southeast Asia. We recognised the need for an update of ASEAN’s directions as we sailed onto the unchartered waters of the post-Cold War era.
Looking back, I am glad we undertook several bold and new measures for economic and political cooperation. ASEAN has made progress over the last 3 years. We have a strong foundation upon which to build regional co-operation.
The principles enshrined in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation provide the framework on how to manage and resolve problems in the region peacefully. it is important that all major powers associate themselves with and observe the principles of this Treaty.
The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), initiated since we last met in Singapore, has the potential to be an instrument for building confidence. The ARF, comprising ASEAN, 11 other member states and the EU with deep stakes in the region can help keep this region peaceful and stable. We will need diplomatic skills and patience to reconcile differences and allay the concerns of all 19 members in ARF.
The signing of the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone reaffirms further our commitment to regional and global peace and security.
At the same time, ASEAN cannot be complacent. Developments in the South China Sea can lead to new tensions. The Korean Peninsula also is an area of great uncertainty. But most of all, the change in the relative weight of the major powers will make continual adjustments necessary.
In 1992, we launched the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). It was an ambitious but timely idea. Global competitiveness is getting more intense. Other regions will compete and challenge ASEAN’s attractiveness as a market and a place for foreign direct investments. Since AFTA was formed in 1992, intra-ASEAN trade has grown more significantly.
During this Summit, we will broaden the areas of economic cooperation to include services, intellectual property and a new industrial cooperation scheme. Their successful implementation will ensure that ASEAN remains dynamic into the 21st Century.
I am glad that we have not overlooked the special role of our private sectors in development. Their enterprise will generate growth and employment.
Our various sub-regional growth areas, like BIMP-EAGA, SIJORI and the Northern Triangle are evidence of a strong desire to widen the areas of economic cooperation. We should provide strong incentives for ASEAN businessmen to drive ASEAN forward and make it an attractive destination for foreign investors.
ASEAN is the world’s fourth largest trading entity. In our economic and political initiatives, we have sought good relations with all the industrialised countries. Our links with the major industrialised countries would encourage more trade and investments and keep our region plugged into the wider Asia Pacific.
All members have demonstrated their commitment to free and open trade, through APEC and the WTO. Singapore’s hosting of the review conference highlighted this recognition of our economic status in the World.
ASEAN played an important part in the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Osaka in November. In the months leading to the next APEC Leaders’ Meeting in the Republic of the Philippines, ASEAN will play a key role in the implementation of the Action Agenda. We should give our support to President Ramos for another successful Leaders’ Meeting.
ASEAN has also prepared the way for a deepening of our links with Europe. The Asia-Europe Meeting in March 1996 in Thailand can be a significant boost to Asia-Europe relations. ASEAN’s role in these initiatives keeps ASEAN relevant to the world.
Vietnam’s admission has brought ASEAN to nearly 420 million people. Cambodia, Laos and eventually Myanmar will be the next new members. More members mean more challenges. New members will increase our political, economic and cultural diversity.
It is therefore good that we have the leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar present at this Summit. The leaders of these countries can understand the thinking and workings of ASEAN. It also gives the existing members an understanding of their concerns at becoming members of ASEAN. The dialogue and interaction with these prospective members can be replicated at different levels, ministerial and official.
We must also not neglect the next generation in ASEAN. More than 50% of ASEAN’s population is below the age of 20. A large number of young ASEAN citizens are in the schools and universities. Our young must be given opportunities to interact and to build empathy and rapport among themselves.We must encourage more youth activities within ASEAN. This will increase the bonds among the future leaders of ASEAN.
Our principal challenges are clear. First, to deepen and broaden our security and economic cooperation. Second, to manage our expansion to ensure that ASEAN retains its solidarity. Third, how to transmit the ASEAN way to the next generation of leaders and people. I am confident our decisions, at the last Summit in Singapore and in this Summit in Bangkok, the birthplace of ASEAN, will prepare us to meet these challenges.
WABILLAHIT TAUFIQ WAL-HIDAYAH WASSALAMU’ALAIKUM WARAHMATULLAHI WABARAKAATUH.