Addressing the 43rd General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA-43) gathered in Phnom Penh on November 20, King Norodom Sihamoni called for unity and the protection of peace amid regional and global challenges that have disrupted or threatened it.

King Sihamoni also said that he regarded parliamentary cooperation as playing a “crucial and an indispensable” role by contributing to resolving regional and global issues.

This came in a written statement issued by the King on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the AIPA-43 on November 20. The summit is scheduled to continue until November 25 with the theme “advancing together for a sustainable, inclusive and resilient ASEAN”.

In his letter to the AIPA-43, King Sihamoni said that the spirit of “togetherness” has always been the backdrop of ASEAN’s collective efforts to keep the region peaceful over the last several decades, which has created enormous socio-economic opportunities for its people.

He said that thanks to peace, millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, concrete employment opportunities have been provided to women and enhanced future job prospects have also been created.

He further stated that the region has been able to invest more in good education and improved healthcare for the elderly.

“We are blessed to be in a thriving region that continues to attract foreign investment, trade and tourism to create more wealth and prosperity for our people.

“But peace needs to be protected and constantly nurtured. Peace could be undermined at any moment by various traditional challenges, from near and far, as well as from non-traditional threats that could rock the stability of our societies,” he said.

The King noted that, although the worst of the public health crisis seems to be over, the lingering impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue on for years or even decades.

He also touched on the political crisis in Myanmar, writing that it not only exacerbates internal political violence there and armed conflicts, it also deprives the people of Myanmar of the opportunity for human development.

The King warned that the crisis in Myanmar could also undermine the very foundations of the ASEAN community and everything which ASEAN has worked so hard to build.

“The growing intensity of the rivalry between the superpowers and the recent threats to use nuclear weapons are of great concern for the fate of humanity. Moreover, there are still daily issues that all countries need to deal with, such as climate change and its recurrent disasters, which have already wreaked havoc on food security and on the livelihoods of the people.

“But these problems, as mind-boggling as they may seem, are not insurmountable provided we ACT TOGETHER to mobilize our human and intellectual resources, wisdom and innovative technological advancements to address them,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen addressing the 43rd General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA-43) gathered in Phnom Penh on November 20.Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statement said that Cambodia continues to make it a priority to strengthen ASEAN centrality and unity while adhering to multilateralism, which is a key regional mechanism for reducing geopolitical tensions and deescalating confrontations between the superpowers.

The prime minister said he was satisfied with the ASEAN Summits and related meetings held in Phnom Penh earlier this month, which he said had positive outcomes and made significant contributions to establishing common positions and providing inputs to find the solutions necessary for ensuring regional security, stability and development.

Hun Sen also congratulated Thailand on the success of the recent APEC Summit that it hosted, as well as Indonesia on its successful G20 Summit.

“I firmly believe that the success of the ASEAN, APEC and G20 Summits – all hosted in close order by ASEAN member states this year – has made a significant contribution to enhancing ASEAN’s prestige and centrality when addressing common regional and global challenges,” he said.

The king also said that inter-parliamentary diplomacy, partnership, and cooperation were crucial and need to be promoted in tandem with the efforts of respective governments “to give new impetus to drive our efforts toward attaining long-lasting peace and prosperity for our ASEAN community”.

Hun Sen’s letter echoed these ideas, achieving “unity” in the official messaging of Cambodia’s head of state and head of government, even if it remains in jeopardy elsewhere in the region.

“In the current context, in which the world is facing many complex challenges, I would like to emphasize that parliaments – such as the National Assemblies – indeed have a crucial and an indispensable role in contributing to resolving regional and global issues,” said the prime minister.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that AIPA is a multilateral mechanism for legislators in the region that facilitates discussion and diplomacy but is not a decision making body or one that passes laws like the parliaments in each ASEAN member state.

“We hope that through this assembly there will be many insights offered up that will contribute to finding solutions to regional and global issues. It would also be appropriate to the spirit of multilateralism for the assembly to take up discussion of possible solutions in order to share responsibility for managing the current crises.

“If multilateral diplomacy were to prevail as the global norm for solving problems and sorting out disagreements, then the world might attain peace, stability, prosperity, and the sustainable and inclusive development everyone likes to talk about,” he said.