Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 23 December 2011

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Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, and his delegation from the ASEAN Secretariat had an audience with His Majesty King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday, at the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

The two sides discussed a broad range of issues. “The ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh will be an excellent opportunity to discuss regional and global issues. We hope to contribute to peaceful cooperation on regional and global security, social issues, disaster management, sustainable development. We should promote and protect our cultural heritage, reduce poverty and the socio-economic disparity among the Member States”, said the King. He expressed confidence that Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN would contribute to strengthening solidarity, trust and mutual confidence among ASEAN Member States and its Dialogue Partners. “I am deeply convinced that though the ASEAN Summit, Cambodia can contribute to advancing ASEAN Community-building, democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, good governance, constitutional development, the rule of law and social justice for the ASEAN people”, he said.

The King expressed his gratitude to the Secretary-General and the ASEAN governments for providing Cambodia the opportunity to participate in meetings and negotiations under the umbrella of ASEAN. He shared his observation that ASEAN enables Cambodia to raise the country’s profile in international affairs. “Cambodia needs ASEAN for our national interests”, he said.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan suggested that the King could provide inspiration and direction during the Chairmanship. Dr Surin explained that ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and the global community have conveyed their full support of ASEAN, whom they view as a shining example of a successful regional organisation. He stressed that it is imperative for the region to rise to the occasion, since the global community is looking towards ASEAN to provide innovation and leadership to resolve global concerns.

Noting King Sihamoni’s deep interest in culture and the arts, particularly, in film and the performing arts, Dr Surin suggested that His Majesty share his aspirations and guidance to inspire the people of ASEAN and promote the region’s rich cultural and artistic diversity. He expressed his concern that “ASEAN should not neglect the “soft issues” which touch our hearts and souls of our people”. “ASEAN should create common projects to highlight its cultural heritage and raise awareness among the people, while deepening our understanding of our place in the globalised world”, he said. He observed that the King could make a lasting contribution to ASEAN by providing guidance on research in the performing arts.

King Sihamoni responded that he was in full cognisance of his duties. He expressed the hope that ASEAN could contribute to “building a world based on fraternity and friendship”, and that he “is deeply convinced that cultural exchanges will bring peace, understanding and cooperation in a globalised world.”

Dr Surin Pitsuwan is on an official mission to Cambodia, the incoming Chair of ASEAN, during which he met with the Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Hor Namhong. The delegation also met with Senior Ministers and Cham Prasidth, and Son Chanthol, who represent the Councils of the economic and socio-cultural pillars of the ASEAN Community.