Prime Minister Hun Sen, buoyed by the successful hosting of the 32nd ASEAN Games, has challenged all ASEAN nations to aim for the global stage by bidding to host the International Olympic Games or Football World Cup.

He shared his vision while inaugurating the 12th ASEAN Para Games on June 3 at Cambodia’s Morodok Techo National Stadium in Phnom Penh.

Featuring sporting delegations from 11 ASEAN countries, the Para Games’ opening ceremony was a spectacle that drew thousands of enthusiastic spectators.

“Following our triumphant hosting of the 32nd SEA Games, Cambodia has furthered ASEAN’s cause for unity and has elevated the standard of sports within our region,” said Hun Sen.

He expressed a hopeful outlook that the momentum garnered from the SEA Games could eventually propel ASEAN to the forefront of international sports events.

“I firmly believe that it won’t be long before we see an ASEAN team competing at the FIFA World Cup,” he added.

As Chairman of the National Paralympic Committee of Cambodia (NPCC), Hun Sen drew immense pride from the fact Cambodia was boosting the rights and freedom of disabled athletes within ASEAN by hosting the para games for the first time.

“By hosting this event, we are allowing these athletes to showcase their talents and abilities on a grand stage. Let’s unite to champion the rights of the disabled and extend our support to them,” he said.

Hun Many, deputy head of the NPCC’s sporting council and representative of the Cambodia ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee (CAMAPGOC), echoed the Prime Minister’s sentiments. He reflected on the significance of Cambodia hosting the 32nd SEA Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games, viewing them as a reflection of Cambodia’s present-day reality.

Hosting these games, he said, provided a glimpse into the true Cambodia, moving beyond its tragic past. He also noted the positive energy and hospitality extended by the athletes, volunteers, and the Cambodian people.

“This is the essence of the spirit and potential of modern Cambodia,” he added.

The Kingdom has welcomed 2,160 sporting delegates from 11 nations, who compete in 431 events which cover 13 sports, as well as Esports, appearing as a demonstration sport for the first time.

Many explained that the para games gave athletes with disabilities the opportunity to represent their countries and exhibit their passion, determination, and ability, just as their compatriots had done at the SEA Games.

“We need to look beyond their physical disabilities, and focus on their resilience and tenacity to achieve their goals and dreams. It’s crucial that we understand and support their indomitable spirits,” he concluded.

King Norodom Sihamoni also expressed his joy in a congratulatory message.

“On behalf of my subjects, I would like to celebrate the formal opening ceremony of the ASEAN 12th Para Games in the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said via a Facebook channel Royal du Cambodge.