The role of “ASEAN” in a changing geo-political scenario.

Written by H.E Samheng Boros

Over the past ten years, Southeast Asia’s economic and geopolitical profile has substantially changed. Its $3 trillion economy is a special shining spot for global growth. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has assumed a remarkable level of importance in international relations on a global scale due to its growing cohesion and success in becoming the hub of the growing regional security architecture of the Asia-Pacific.

The Southeast Asian nations have prioritised economic development in order to fend off pressure from other countries and avoid becoming pawns in a geopolitical game. The first move the region made toward exercising collective, and hence stronger, bargaining power was the formation of a regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Maintaining political neutrality, abstaining from forming any military alliances with nations outside the region, opening up economies, and fostering trade and investment are among ASEAN’s core principles. As a result of more than 50 years of working for economic growth, ASEAN has emerged as the only genuine regional economic organization in the world.

On 1 January 2022, Cambodia assumed the Chairmanship of ASEAN for the third time.

In spite of the ongoing effects of geopolitical unrest, ASEAN continues to sign an increasing number of international trade agreements. The international community has also begun to acknowledge the region’s significance in the development of peace and prosperity on a global level. The region is in a better position to achieve its goals of rising to the position of the fourth-largest economy in the world by 2030.

Many people in the region hope that Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand will exercise leadership to find ways to bring important stakeholders together to find solutions to some of the most urgent common challenges and restore faith, even though the region will be reluctant to cross certain boundaries or join any particular side.

Being the ASEAN chair, Cambodia will continue to build on the community’s spirit of cooperation to coordinate efforts to achieve the goals of building a resilient ASEAN Community in line with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025. Cambodia showed its maturity by handling negotiations on difficult issues including the South China Sea dispute, Myanmar, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In a combined effort with Japan, Cambodia also announced that it will send its first group of deminers to Ukraine in December. The project is all about providing humanitarian assistance. Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen tried to arrange talks between the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia in Phnom Penh. This was a great effort to bring peace between two countries.

The coming months will be crucial for both ASEAN and the rest of the world. As the disparities between nations widen and the problems, we face get worse by the day, the window of opportunity is getting smaller. ASEAN will be in the spotlight, and it is up to all of the member states to take use of this chance to demonstrate how “Unity in Diversity” can lead to sustainable and inclusive solutions, both for its own citizens and for the rest of the world.

H.E Samheng Boros is Minister attached to the Prime Minister , Royal Government of Cambodia and Chairman of National Social Assistance Fund Board (NSAF) and Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY).

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