The leaders of ASEAN and ASEAN Plus Three are set to meet via video conference on Tuesday to discuss initiatives and coordinated action in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a press release on Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said Prime Minister Hun Sen will raise the issue of Covid-19 impacts on socio-economic development, global economic growth, security, trade and social affairs.
The ministry said concerted efforts are needed to promptly tackle the challenges effectively.
“These two special summits [ASEAN and ASEAN Plus Three] will be another milestone reflecting ASEAN’s cohesiveness through joint actions of mutual assistance, enhancing ASEAN’s responsiveness to act promptly and effectively in control of the disease, and fostering regional resilience,” the press release said.
It said the regional bloc is keen to explore cooperation with its external partners and the international community to enhance readiness and measures to mitigate the impacts.
The virtual “special summits” follow an invitation by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc as the rotating ASEAN chair this year.
According to the press release, Hun Sen will be accompanied by foreign minister Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth, Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Hang Chuon Naron, and Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng.
The regional bloc has held a number of virtual cross-sectoral meetings over the past weeks.
During a video conference on April 7, the ASEAN and ASEAN Plus Three health ministers agreed on measures to strengthen preparedness, prevention, detection and response to the pandemic.
“We recognise the rapidly evolving outbreak of Covid-19, which was declared by the World Health Organisation on January 30 as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the ministers said in a joint statement.
Cambodian health minister Bun Heng on Monday said the ASEAN meeting was a reciprocal exchange of experiences with senior political decision-makers.
He said it is mutually beneficial to share Cambodia’s political decision-making experience with other ASEAN member states and its three major development partners – Japan, China and South Korea.
“The heads of governments in the region will exchange experiences on the prevention of Covid-19 during the ASEAN and ASEAN Plus Three summits,” he said.
The ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) on Thursday also convened a meeting to discuss the pandemic, with Indonesian foreign minister Retno LP Marsudi assuring that “the ASEAN diplomatic machine continues to spin” as member states join hands to contain the pandemic that has infected at least 15,000 people and killed more than 500 in Southeast Asia.
Retno also called for the protection of migrant workers, who she said are the most vulnerable groups as countries shut their borders amid the pandemic.
The bloc’s foreign ministers on Thursday also agreed to establish a Covid-10 ASEAN Response Fund that would be drawn in part from the existing ASEAN Development Fund.
“We must prioritise the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund to expand the scale of existing emergency stockpiles for pandemic responses with items such as face masks, test kits and protective equipment,” Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted by The Star as saying.