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Security issues may destabilise ASEAN: PM

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Prime Minister Hun Sen delivers a speech to mark the 55th anniversary of ASEAN on August 8. SPM

Security issues may destabilise ASEAN: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that rising regional and global security challenges could destabilise the ASEAN region if not properly managed.

In a message to mark the 55th anniversary of ASEAN on August 8, the premier outlined some of the threats to peace for ASEAN and the world.

“In the future, ASEAN will continue to face many major security challenges and the most important ones are the situations in Myanmar, the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula and the Russia-Ukraine war. All of these issues could destabilise the peace and security in our region if we do not manage them well,” he said.

Hun Sen said ASEAN could not guarantee that there would be no conflicts or wars, but could at least act as an open forum for constructive dialogue and consultation as it has done so in the past, thereby significantly contributing to the promotion of peace and stability in the region.

He said the bloc’s “enormous” achievements so far underscored the strong commitment and political will of its leaders to maintain peace and stability as well as to bring economic prosperity to an inclusive ASEAN Community with a spirit of unity and solidarity.

At the same time, he urged all member states to stand on the basis of consensus for cooperation and mutual benefit.

“We will continue to focus on the activities that bind us together for the betterment of our region,” he said, adding that ASEAN will promote the spirit of “unity” to concentrate efforts within the bloc and with external partners, in a bid to achieve the goal of building a resilient “ASEAN Community Vision 2025”.

Hun Sen expressed his confidence that ASEAN could move forward with strength, solidarity and friendship to overcome all the challenges that are affecting the common interests of the people and the region in accordance with the ASEAN spirit of “one vision, one identity, one community”.

He said Cambodia is a proactive contributor to the ASEAN political-security community, with a strong and joint commitment to maintaining and promoting peace and security in the region.

“We support the acceleration of ASEAN’s proactive contribution to regional and global peace, including through UN peacekeeping operations.”

In 2022, Cambodia assumed the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN for the third time under the theme “ASEAN ACT: Addressing Challenges Together”.

The premier said the theme reflects Cambodia’s commitment to promote the spirit of ASEAN based on “unity” to mobilise and promote ASEAN’s centrality, unity and solidarity in joint action to address common challenges in the region as well as to promote contributions of ASEAN towards peace, stability, security and sustainable development in the region and beyond.

ASEAN’s foreign ministers agreed at last week’s meeting to change their positions on Myanmar if more opposition activists are executed.

The bloc’s top diplomats also urged all relevant parties to the Russia-Ukraine conflict to exercise the utmost restraint possible and to reduce tensions and push for an immediate end to the crisis.

In addition, they called on the parties in the South China Sea dispute to resolve it peacefully and constructively in accordance with internationally recognised norms, principles and laws, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the SEA (UNCLOS).

Thong Mengdavid, a researcher at the Asian Vision Institute’s Mekong Centre for Strategic Studies, said that, for the future, ASEAN needs greater unity and commitment to address common issues for the bloc. All of these issues – Myanmar, the South China Sea, Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula – affect the internal security of ASEAN members and the region as a whole.

He noted that internal issues related to inflation, food and energy and the people’s dissatisfaction with the governments of some nations have led to demonstrations or demands for a change of leadership, which could affect national security.

“As for the regional issues, they are the arms race, expansion of military presence and geopolitical rivalry of the superpowers, pandemic, natural disasters, drug and human trafficking issues, among others. Insiders and outsiders will push ASEAN members to focus on their own political and economic interests rather than the common interests of the region,” added Mengdavid.

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