Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 22 December 2011

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Dr Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN visited Phmom Penh Cambodia between 21-22 December 2011, to brief the incoming Chair of ASEAN. The Secretary-General and his delegation met with King Norodom Sihamoni, Prime Minister Hun Sen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hor Namhong, and Cham Prasidh, Senior Ministers of Commerce and Chairman of the ASEAN Economic Community Council, and Sun Chanthol, Senior Minister, Permanent Vice Chairman of the Council for the Development of Cambodia and Chaiaman of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Council.

The meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen took place at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. The two sides held a warm and lengthy exchange on a variety of issues related to Cambodia’s chairmanship of ASEAN in 2012. They discussed the importance of ASEAN centrality and civilisational dialogues, and the need to sustain ASEAN’s growing voice in international fora like the G20 and the United Nations.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN pledged the full support of the Secretariat and ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners to Cambodia during their chairmanship. Expressing concern that extremists of all convictions cause difficulties in all countries, the Prime Minister expressed the desire to support Malaysia’s proposal to form a coalition of moderate faiths. Dr Surin Pitsuwan informed the Prime Minister that King Norodom Sihamoni had advised ASEAN that beyond achieving material progress, it is important to develop a peaceful and sustainable region.

Prime Minister Hun Sen stressed the urgent need to strengthen the ASEAN Secretariat to advance the regional organisation. As the longest serving ASEAN head of state, he shared his observations on the ASEAN processes since Cambodia became member. “ASEAN has so far been the subject to the initiative of the chair country to advance the ASEAN agenda.” He observed that ASEAN often experiences delays when expressing its views on global developments. “If the chair of ASEAN is not active on international issues, then ASEAN will not be active”, he added, observing that ASEAN’s agenda is also subject to changing governments. “It is necessary to empower the Secretary-General and the Secretariat to take the initiative, to provide continuity between chairmanships and to prepare views for the ASEAN Leaders”, he said.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan responded that in his four years as Secretary-General of ASEAN, he had reflected deeply on this topic, and had conveyed his views on the issue in a report to the ASEAN Coordinating Council. He agreed with the Prime Minister’s proposal that the topic is important to the Summit, as ASEAN has much potential to project its views on the global stage, and has been able to attract the attention and support of large powers and global institutions at ASEAN platforms like the East Asian Summit. The Prime Minister acknowledged that this would support the motives ASEAN member states and its stakeholders, “ASEAN benefits. Dialogue Partners also benefit, if ASEAN’s role is strengthened”, he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen added that, “Starting next year, with Cambodia as chair, I would like the the Secretary-General of ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat to play a more significant role. “This is not in Your Excellency’s personal interests or mine, but in the interest of the whole region”, he stressed. He cautioned that, “Otherwise, our theme would not be ‘One Destiny, One Community, but One Community, Ten Destinies”.