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‘ASEAN way’ guides bloc past rocky roads

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Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn speaks at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) on August 3. Hong Menea

‘ASEAN way’ guides bloc past rocky roads

Foreign minister Prak Sokhonn said ASEAN has gone through many challenges over the course of its history but has managed to solve each of them one by one while promoting the “ASEAN way” during its 55 years in existence.

He said that this year, ASEAN had faced unprecedented pressures, but he was confident that the bloc would forge ahead based on ASEAN’s core spirit of “One Vision, One Identity and One Community”.

“We firmly stayed focused on our community building efforts, we continued to enhance and expand our cooperation with external partners and we have shown that ASEAN stood tall and strong during this critical time of great uncertainties and turbulence in the region and the world,” he said in his August 8 message to commemorate the 55th anniversary of ASEAN’s establishment.

Sokhonn said it was quite evident that challenges have always existed over the past 55 years and that those challenges have sometimes tested ASEAN’s limits, be they health related, economic or geopolitical in nature.

“But never before, never like this year, have we been confronted at the same time with so many perils for the region and the world at large. Throughout all these times, ASEAN has without fail managed to show its resilience by tackling them, one-by-one, one way or another, by following the ASEAN way,” he said.

Sokhonn recalled the long journey that the bloc has been through, saying that in the past, ASEAN was a region struggling with its security, stability and development problems, but now the region is a thriving one where suspicion has been turned into trust and hostilities and confrontation turned into cooperation and development.

“With decades of relative peace and stability, ASEAN has prospered way beyond our expectations, with high-growth and development and a steady improvement of its people’s wellbeing,” he said.

Cooperation has not only flourished among its member states, but also with external partners, through mechanisms such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), which currently has 49 parties to it, including the latest six who joined last week, he stated.

According to Sokhonn, ASEAN has worked very diligently to ensure that its centrality and unity are preserved and strengthened. He said it is ASEAN centrality that is the primary driving force behind substantive dialogue and cooperation with its external partners.

He said that last week’s 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings achieved remarkable successes with “overcoming the burning issues, the unprecedented pressures and the tremendous challenges of the present time”.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, observed that although global and regional issues were the subject of “heated” debates during the AMM this year, Cambodia – backed by the other ASEAN members – still managed to deal with those contentious issues using even-handed neutrality and with the spirit of cooperation founded in rules-based multilateralism.

“The success Cambodia had in organising this year’s ASEAN meetings reflects the important role that Cambodia played in 2022 as a member and as the chair of the bloc in promoting peace, stability and development in the region,” he said.

Meanwhile, the EU and ASEAN is celebrating their 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations with a bicycling event called the Bike45Ride, slated to take place from August 13 to September 11.

The Bike45Ride, organised by the delegation of the EU to ASEAN, is a virtual cycling competition open to all EU and ASEAN citizens over the age of 17 who reside in Southeast Asia. It is being held to commemorate and highlight initiatives and cooperation projects that promote the green agenda in both regions, according to the media invite.

A virtual press conference will be held on August 13 via Zoom, with EU ambassador to ASEAN Igor Driesmans and with Elizabeth Te, the charge d’affaires of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to ASEAN, who is also country coordinator for ASEAN-EU dialogue relations.

According to the EU in ASEAN, participants can choose to register as individuals or as teams with a maximum of five people, to complete a total distance of 45km of cycling within one month.

The top 45 individual cyclists and groups of cyclists will be displayed on a leaderboard, and the top 45 finishers in the individual category and the top 10 teams in the group category – as determined by the fastest times covering a total distance of 45km – will receive a special race kit.

The rules state that the use of any electronic devices to help or alter entrants’ odds of winning would be counted as fraudulent entries, which are not permitted and will be declared invalid.

The press release said the objective of the competition is to increase public awareness of the European Green Deal and the Team Europe Green Initiative in partnership with Southeast Asia and ASEAN while also encouraging the public to take part in climate action and promote a shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation, such as cycling.

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