At the 42nd ASEAN Summit, the bloc’s leaders reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing the ASEAN centrality and unity in their engagement with external partners, and confirmed they intend to maintain the momentum of building the ASEAN community. They also issued calls for the cessation of violence in Myanmar.

The summit and related meetings took place on May 10-11 in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.

The prime minister of Timor-Leste, Taur Matan Ruak, attended the summit for the first time, with observer status. At the 2022 Phnom Penh summit, Timor-Leste’s membership application was agreed in principle, although there are still certain conditions it must meet before the young Southeast Asian nation becomes the bloc’s 11th member.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in his May 11 social media post that the ASEAN leadership had issued a statement reaffirming their support for Indonesia’s chairmanship, under the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”.

“We expressed our commitment to strengthening the ASEAN community, and proclaimed our intent to ensure the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025,” he added.

He noted that summit attendees had emphasised the importance of centrality and unity when connecting with external partners, whether through the ASEAN mechanism plus one, ASEAN plus three, the East Asia summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum or the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus.

“We also welcomed major progress in ASEAN extradition treaty negotiations and expect them to end shortly,” he said.

“In addition, we reaffirmed the importance of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia [TAC] as an important code of conduct for managing inter-state relations in the region and maintaining peace and stability. We noted the approval of Saudi Arabia and Panama’s requests to join the TAC,” he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and other ASEAN leaders link arms during the 42nd ASEAN Summit on May 10 in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. SPM

The assembled leaders welcomed Australia’s proposal to hold a summit to mark next year’s 50th anniversary of the ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Partnership, and looked forward to this year’s ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Saudi Arabia, and ASEAN-Japan 50th anniversary summit in Japan.

According to the post, on May 11 Hun Sen and other ASEAN leaders attended a closed-door summit, which produced a statement expressing support for an earlier statement by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who criticised an attack on ASEAN humanitarian workers in Myanmar.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said that the ASEAN bloc faces several challenges.

“ASEAN’s core role remains challenging, especially in the dangerous context of interference from the superpowers, the collapse of global economic systems triggered by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, and strong geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific region alike,” he told The Post on May 11.

“The bloc should strengthen its role as regional leaders and steer it towards prosperity, peace and stability. ASEAN centrality is the core principle that makes ASEAN neutral, prosperous and provides development for their people,” he added.