New ASEAN head advised to boost region’s role in world fora

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BANGKOK, Dec 7 – Thailand has urged the incoming leader of the ASEAN Secretariat to actively promote the role of the Southeast Asian grouping on the international stage, a senior Thai foreign ministry official said today. 

Sihasak Puangketkaew, permanent secretary for foreign affairs, met with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Le Luong Minh who will become ASEAN secretary general next year, replacing Surin Pitsuwan who is due to complete his five-year term at the end of this month.

The new secretary general will assume the post January 1, and occupy the position until 2018 – the exact timing for the most vital agenda of ushering the region to become ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015.

“It is indisputable that the AEC will be the most significant issue but the secretary general was asked not to overlook the region’s social and cultural aspects which directly involve peoples’ ways of life,” he said.

“People have questioned ASEAN cooperation in bracing through challenges. The future will be crucial to the region. ASEAN will have to speak in one voice to promote peace and security in Southeast Asia,” Mr Sihasak said.

Mr Minh said his most urgent task as ASEAN secretary general will be to ensure that the AEC is  functional as targeted, adding that regional peace and security are essential to success.

Touching on the unresolved crisis in the South China Sea, he said ASEAN will have to reach conclusions on the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and strengthen relationship with negotiating partners while maintaining its neutrality.

It is important that the regional grouping moves forward through the available mechanisms, including the ASEAN  Regional Forum and East Asia Summit.