Senior official Kao Kim Hourn has become the first Cambodian to assume the ASEAN secretary-general post, in what has been hailed as a major boost in the Kingdom’s profile in the Southeast Asian bloc and international arena.

Kim Hourn took office for a five-year term on January 9, in a ceremony presided over by Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi and in the presence of his Bruneian predecessor Lim Jock Hoi.

The ASEAN Secretariat (ASEC) congratulated Kim Hourn in a tweet following the event, held at its headquarters in Jakarta.

“[Kim Hourn’s] career has focused on strengthening Cambodia’s global relations, particularly in ASEAN. He was a two-term Minister Delegate attached to the Prime Minister of Cambodia from 2013,” it said.

Kim Hourn thanked Retno for her “important role” and Lim for his “great contributions” to ASEAN.

“It was an honour for me to officially assume the [secretary-general] post,” he said briefly.

Retno said she looked forward to working with Kim Hourn and thanked Lim for his services.

“After the handover ceremony, I had a fruitful discussion with [Kim Hourn] and [Lim] on the way forward for ASEAN … We focused on concrete steps to realise ASEAN’s priorities in the years to come,” she said in a January 9 tweet.

EU ambassador to ASEAN Igor Driesmans, who also attended the ceremony, said on January 10 that he was looking forward to building on the great momentum in ASEAN relations with the new ASEC chief.

Following an earlier meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, Kim Hourn said he is fully committed to carrying out his new role to fulfil the faith placed in him by the premier and all the heads of other ASEAN member states.

In a separate meeting with National Assembly president Heng Samrin, Kim Hourn said the role of ASEAN secretary-general requires close cooperation with the legislative and executive branches to make the bloc successful.

He also met with Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak, who is also National Representative for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council, earlier this month.

Kim Hourn said that AEC – one of the three pillars of the intergovernmental organisation – plays an indispensable role in promoting economic integration, both within the bloc itself and with dialogue partners.

Royal Academy of Cambodia secretary-general Yang Peou said Kim Hourn is an experienced official with knowledge of international affairs and diplomatic policy.

“It is an honour for Cambodia as we have a dignitary widely recognised as fully up to the task of heading the regional intergovernmental organisation.

“We hope that [Kim Hourn] will perform effectively in the role to reflect well on the prestige of Cambodia, and that he can coordinate with ASEAN partners in regional and international relations,” Peou said.