Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that as chair of ASEAN, Cambodia would continue to strengthen the bloc’s unity to counter the divisive influence of geopolitical rivalry.

“We, along with other ASEAN member states, will strive to build a brighter future for Asia and the world,” he said.

Hun Sen spoke at length about ASEAN unity at the 27th International Conference on the Future of Asia via video conference in Tokyo on May 27.

“We will continue to strengthen the centrality and the unity ASEAN to ensure the resilience and the strength of ASEAN in countering the pressures and influences stemming from increasing geopolitical competition as well as other challenges,” he said.

He added that ASEAN will continue to urge the effective implementation of all planned initiatives and measures, as well as to capitalise on trade agreements, including increasing both physical and digital connectivity.

In the presence of heads of state and government and senior dignitaries from other Asian countries, the premier emphasised that Cambodia will unite with the other ASEAN nations and continue to strive to strengthen the capacities of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) as well as to promote entrepreneurship among women and youth and strengthen human resource development to respond to the needs and challenges of the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0.

He said he firmly hoped that the conference would foster closer cooperation between all countries, bringing greater benefit to the region and beyond.

Hun Sen also called on Asian countries to work together to further foster regional cooperation that is open, transparent, inclusive, complementary and mutually beneficial.

“We must continue to maintain and strengthen unity and solidarity between countries in Asia, which is the key to promoting peace, security, stability and development in the region and the world. To that end, ASEAN as a regional body plays an indispensable role in contributing to the achievement of these valuable goals,” he said.

Hun Sen also said that ASEAN – through mechanisms such as the ASEAN Plus Three, East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus – had brought together the two major superpowers, medium regional powers and all interested small states to build mutual trust and confidence as well as to strengthen regional governance architecture based on legal measures with ASEAN at its core.

Thong Mengdavid, a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, told The Post on May 29 that Cambodia aims to turn ASEAN into a bridge of peace and development in the region and beyond in a sustainable and harmonious manner.

He said ASEAN must maintain a strong position and prove itself in its role as the region’s future leader by avoiding the trap of choosing one superpower over another, instead choosing its own independent path while working to foster good relations with both superpowers and with all regional powers in matters like the fight against the global pandemic while continuing to take a measured stance against external political interference in any other state’s internal affairs.

“As we have seen, weapons alone cannot end wars – obviously in Myanmar, Ukraine and on the Korean Peninsula, where wars are actively being waged or the threat of war hangs over the lives of the people, with the potential to completely destroy all of the development progress of these countries.

“All countries must be considered friends of ASEAN and Cambodia if they don’t engage in overt hostilities and are willing to abide by the core principle of ASEAN centrality for the region,” he said.