ASEAN Meeting: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (second left) inspects honor guards with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen (left), during an official welcoming ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Sunday. (AP/Vincent Thian)
Leaders of ASEAN member countries gathering in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, have been called upon to ensure the smooth implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by 2015 through several steps.
The 21st ASEAN Summit was officially opened on Sunday by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace.
“Realizing the ASEAN Community by 2015 should remain our top priority,” he said in Khmer during his opening speech.
ASEAN leaders have agreed that implementation of the ambitious economic integration will be slightly delayed.
The AEC will be launched at the end of 2015 — Dec. 31 — rather than on Jan. 1, 2015 as originally envisioned.
Hun Sen stressed the timely implementation of programs and plans of action for building the ASEAN Community were “urgent matters that need our clear and sincere guidance”.
He continued that ASEAN leaders should encourage all ASEAN ministers concerned to formulate necessary policy measures to be implemented before 2015 in key areas including tariff and non-tariff barriers, investment liberalization, connectivity and transportation, small and medium enterprise development, mutual recognition arrangements on professional services and labor mobility and other regulatory reforms.
Hun Sen also stated that ASEAN must also promote effective functioning of existing mechanisms to ensure regional security and peace, such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus and the ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism.
After the opening ceremony, ASEAN leaders officially launched the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation.
Separately on Sunday, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan stated that Southeast Asian leaders would pressure Myanmar to resolve violence between Buddhists and its Muslim minority, after unrest left scores dead and as many as 100,000 people displaced.
Myanmar President Thein Sein has blamed nationalist and religious extremists for unrest in June and October that killed at least 167 people, but has faced criticism for failing to address underlying tensions in Rakhine State, where an estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are not recognized as citizens.
“Some 800,0000 people are now under tremendous pressure,” Surin told reporters on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.