Your Royal Highness Prince Norodom Ranariddh, President of the National Assembly and Chairman of the 25th AIPO General Assembly,
Your Excellencies, Heads of Delegations to the 25th AIPO,
Distinguished Delegates and Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is indeed a great honor and pleasure for me to welcome you to this August gathering of the 25th AIPO General Assembly. Allow me on behalf of the Government and People of Cambodia to extend our warmest welcome to you all, distinguished delegates, special observers and other guests, to Phnom Penh for the 25th AIPO General Assembly. The Royal Government and the People of Cambodia feel very proud indeed that the National Assembly of the Kingdom of Cambodia kindly hosts the AIPO General Assembly for the first time.
2. Taking this opportunity, I would like to share with you some thoughts and Cambodian perspectives on our region’s interest.
3. From the very early day, Cambodia’s integration into the region and the world is a priority policy of the Royal Government of Cambodia. Specifically, Cambodian membership in ASEAN is a prerequisite for our geo-politics and geo-economics. I used to emphasize four important strengths of ASEAN for Cambodia:
First, ASEAN created a regional environment of security, peace and stability, allowing this region to prosper. This is ASEAN’s greatest strength. Indeed, the regional peace and stability within the region cannot be obtained without a favorable external environment. However, ASEAN itself is the major determining factor in this endeavor. Cambodia considers ASEAN’s “principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs” as a golden rule in the strengthening of relationships and the settlement of intra-ASEAN problems. This principle should be strengthened further and maintained for the sake of regional peace and stability of the region, which are the pre-conditions for development and progress.
Second, ASEAN is a region of cooperation, thus it plays a crucial role in fostering the community spirit among members. The consensus-building principle in making decisions within ASEAN is a strong foundation for the community spirit and cooperative culture. Even if there are differences in views, ASEAN leaders try to agree and do not allow the differences to undermine ASEAN’s spirits of cooperation.
Third, ASEAN is a region known for its strong economic growth. Over the last three decades, ASEAN has been a main economic growth center, which spawned newly industrialized economies or Asian tigers. It is true that the regional economies have recently been undergoing many tests including the serious financial crisis, panics, terrorist act and widespread diseases ect. However, in general, ASEAN has successfully overcome all these challenges, and has showed its strength and stronger growth.
Fourth, ASEAN is the arena for diplomacy and a major international gateway. For more than 30 years of its existence, ASEAN has established an entrenched mechanism for cooperation and consultation, by maintaining close bonds of friendship with its external partners, especially through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), ASEAN+3, ASEAN+1, and consultations with the ASEAN dialogue partners. The network of these mechanism helps in a great deal to maintain security, peace and stability in the region, especially also helps strengthen economic, tourist and trade relations and promotes cross border investments.
4. The four factors mentioned earlier have been fundamentally important in ensuring ASEAN’s achievements and successes as a regional organization. Therefore, the immediate action adopted by ASEAN Leaders at present is to mobilize their energy to enhance these strengths with a view to build a more developed and prosperous Southeast Asia in the new international environment with dynamics and rapid change.
5. For this purpose, the ASEAN Leaders have laid out many programs, projects and action plans. Lastly, at the ASEAN Summit in Bali, the ASEAN Leaders agreed to set out their 2nd long-term vision of ASEAN Community through the declaration of the Bali Concord II. The Bali Concord II is based on three pillars: (1) political and security cooperation, (2) economic cooperation, and (3) socio-cultural cooperation. This vision is the successor of the first vision of the ASEAN Founding Fathers- “ASEAN-10”. We expect that in the forthcoming ASEAN Summit in Vientianne, Lao PDR, the ASEAN Leaders will discuss the “Vientiane Plan of Action” focusing on concrete action plans in order to implement the Bali Concord II, especially on political security cooperation to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in ASEAN in the longer terms.
6. We are on a long journey toward an integrated and competitive ASEAN Community. But, our success will depend on how well we implement the integration initiatives by:
- Creating conducive economic and political climate and networks of both soft- and hardware physical infrastructures to enable free movement of creative and talented people who can bring to ASEAN the technological and value-added edge;
- Enhance the competitiveness of ASEAN as a regional production and tourist destination, as well as to enhance the competitive edge of individual ASEAN members to trade, innovate, and attract investors and tourists within the region and from outside the region.
- Last but not least, efforts in bridging the development gaps in ASEAN should be the top and the most urgent priority for our region and for all development partners concerned. The success on this front will provide a full meaning for ASEAN integration and the vision of transforming ASEAN into a Community of unity and real prosperity.
7. Indeed, Cambodia wishes to be an equal and effective partner of ASEAN. Cambodia has made its efforts to appropriately contribute to the region. In fact, Cambodia did not join ASEAN with an empty hand. The strict adherence to democracy; respect for human rights; the achievement of full peace, stability and national reconciliation have been significant and meaningful contribution for ASEAN. As a member of ASEAN, Cambodia has made its utmost efforts to fulfill all duties and obligations by adopting and actively implementing a comprehensive reform program, aimed at ensuring the effectiveness of Cambodia’s integration into regional structure.
8. Over the last one year, though we have experienced changing situation and difficulties in the last year, but the Royal Government and People of Cambodia have successfully overcome all the challenges, big and small. Evolution of the events, followed the general election of the Third Legislation in July 2003, was a big test for maturity of Cambodian politicians and major political parties. After active political debates for almost one year, under the wise guidance of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia, and Her Majesty the Queen Norodom Monineath, the two main political parties namely, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and the FUNCINPEC represented by Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranarridh and myself successfully overcome the political deadlock and formed a new coalition government. The National Assembly of the Third Legislature was convened and now actively functions.
9. This has explicitly highlighted the most significance of the spirit of national reconciliation, mutual compromise and respect for the principles of human rights in solving political issues. These factors are prerequisite for ensuring peace, stability and the certainty of social dynamics for the nation and people. They say that politics and democracy are ultimately the fine-art of compromise towards a common cause, between individuals, between opposing points of view, and between divergent opinions and paths.
10. As a way forward, the advancement on the development path is a long undertaking for Cambodia. After taking the required Oath of Office, on 16 July I chaired the first Cabinet meeting of the Royal Government of Cambodia to launch theEconomic Action Agenda of the Political Platform of the Royal Government, in the Third Legislature of the National Assembly, which is entitled the Rectangular Strategy for Growth, Employment, Equity, and Efficiency. The Rectangular Strategy was developed based on the political platform agreed earlier, with good governance at its own core, will serve as a key tool of the Royal Government of Cambodia to promote implementation of an in-depth and comprehensive reform agenda by putting the goal of poverty reduction for the people as the top priority policy.
11. The results of all these reforms will bring about progress and prosperity for Cambodian people, strengthen national security, peace and stability within the country and the region; and will further promote economic activities, tourism, trade, investment, cultural exchanges and enhance good relationship in the regional community.
12. In this regard, I believe that the 25th AIPO General Assembly will contribute significantly to the efforts and initiatives as mentioned above. We all are aware that without close cooperation and strong support from the parliaments of ASEAN member countries, the governments of the ASEAN members indeed cannot timely, efficiently and effectively respond to new challenges, such as ensuring peace, conflict prevention in the region, the fight against terrorism, and all kinds of transnational crimes, and cooperation to contain the proliferation of infected diseases, and economic and financial crisis settlements, including energy security. All these have emerged as a result of rapid trend of globalization in this new era.
13. Indeed, the presence of the AIPO’s Dialogue Partners also provides a special nuance to this General Assembly as their participation implies a positive indication of developing further cooperation between ASEAN and other partners concerned.
14. In this context, the Royal Government and people of Cambodia believe that the AIPO General Assembly will add value to the ASEAN strides, including Cambodian efforts in fighting poverty, which we consider as the most challenging issue for every citizen.
15. ASEAN has spent more than 30 years to achieve the Founding Father’s vision of ASEAN-10. Now, ASEAN-10 has time less than 20 years to achieve the vision of second generation – An ASEAN Community, which is based on the three pillars of political and security cooperation, economic cooperation, and social-cultural cooperation as stated in the Bali Concord II. Indeed, this is an ambitious vision if they consider the big differences in political system, social structure, culture, religion, psychology, especially the development gaps among the ten member countries. However, we are still confident on this vision and optimistic that with a strong unity we will achieve this ambition. As I have pointed above, Cambodia is ready to appropriately contribute its own share to this endeavor.
16. To conclude, I wish a great success to the 25th AIPO General Assembly and wish you all, Your Royal Highnesses, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, good health and great success in your endeavor. Particularly, may I wish all the international guests a pleasant and safe stay in our land of Angkor.
Toast during the Luncheon in Honor of the 25th AIPO General Assembly.