The 43rd ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), which Cambodia hosts this year, will be attended by more than 500 high-level delegations from the parliaments of ASEAN member states, observers and partner organisations. Notably absent, it has been confirmed, are Malaysia and Myanmar.

The AIPA will be held on November 20-25 in Phnom Penh with the theme “Taking steps together for the sustainability, inclusiveness and resilience of ASEAN”.

National Assembly (NA) spokesman Leng Peng Long said the AIPA meeting is held annually as a forum for ASEAN member states’ legislators to confer with each other and provide advice and consultation to their governments and the bloc itself.

This year’s meeting will be hosted by Cambodia as part of its slate of duties as the 2022 ASEAN rotating chair.

“Cambodia has already prepared a great deal of content and activities for the event and is ready to welcome all of the delegations,” said Peng Long.

“[NA] is the host institution and has already prepared the content which focuses on the centrality of ASEAN and the strengthening of its resilience, meaning that all ASEAN nations must move together and develop together,” he said.

Peng Long noted that Myanmar will be absent this year due to its ongoing crisis that saw their parliament dissolved while Malaysia needs to first seat its new parliament following the recently held elections.

“All of the countries attending sent delegations led by the speaker of their assembly except for the Philippines, where the speaker would not come because of a planned visit by a Vietnamese delegation.

“As for the observers, there are 16 countries and many other dignitaries, so we will have a total of more than 500 participants attending this meeting,” he said.

He asserted that the absence of the two ASEAN member states would not affect the AIPA as Malaysia’s parliament was just dissolved about one month ago to pave the way for elections.

As for Myanmar, he said the country remains in the middle of an armed civil conflict where the parliament was forcibly dissolved by the military, noting that the bloc’s decision has been to refrain from inviting any of their political leadership to meetings this year.

“So we cannot invite these two countries because who exactly the parliament members are there is not yet clear,” the spokesman said. “They are absent for good reason and it won’t affect the meeting much.”

Peng Long added that the programme would have a plenary session wherein the eight ASEAN member states would each have the right to speak for seven minutes. Then the 10 observer countries would have the right to make a five-minute statement each, followed by the nine guest countries making their five-minute statements.

The NA’s announcement issued on November 14 states that the official opening ceremony of the 43rd AIPA meeting will be held on November 21 with the commencement address welcoming the delegates made by King Norodom Sihamoni.

Some of the top leadership of the government, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and Senate president Say Chhum, will also be delivering opening remarks along with NA president Heng Samrin, who as Cambodia’s “speaker” or head of parliament is thereby serving as chair of the 43rd AIPA.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, told The Post that the cooperation mechanisms of the ASEAN framework come in many forms including this forum held for the legislatures, which is necessary to unite the bloc under the principles of multilateralism for discussing local and international issues of common concern.

“It is an important forum that allows the legislatures of ASEAN member states to meet and work in parallel with the executive branches that meet under other mechanisms within the multilateral framework.

“The AIPA cannot draft or pass laws, but it can discuss challenges and pass resolutions that recommend a course of action to the executive side of their governments, which leads to more comprehensive cooperation,” he said.