Brunei took over the ASEAN chairmanship for 2013 from Cambodia today backed with full support from its counterparts. The symbolic handover ceremony was held at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh during the culmination of the 21st ASEAN Summit and related summits.
Japan's ambassador to Cambodia, Kimihiro Ishikane, told The Brunei Times yesterday that the government and people of Japan will fully cooperate with the Sultanate towards ensuring that next year will be "one of the most fruitful chairmanships that ASEAN has seen".
He noted that Brunei's chairmanship of ASEAN is "extremely important" as it will set the tone for progress in meeting the looming ASEAN Community 2015 deadline.
"It will be critically important for the ASEAN countries to move forward with economic integration," he said.
Teuku Faizasyah, the spokesperson of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also echoed similar sentiments of support towards Brunei. He stated that Indonesia has repeatedly emphasized that it wants to ensure the success of Brunei's chairmanship as it holds great bearing on the 2015 goal for the ASEAN Community.
"Brunei's chairmanship will lead to 2015, so there is plenty of interest on our part to make sure that there is a continuation of agenda in the progress of ASEAN achievement. We have confidence in Brunei's chairmanship," he said.
When asked how Brunei's chairmanship will affect progress, the president's spokesperson explained that ASEAN will move forward at a continuum.
"Certainly ASEAN already has certain priorities. It's a continuum of activities, building on what we achieved in the year before, this year and certainly next year," he explained.
He further stated that the 2015 goal for the ASEAN Community is crucial, hence all member countries will lend their support to Brunei as it assumes chairmanship for next year followed by Myanmar and Malaysia respectively.
Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary of State for Cambodia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also conveyed support of Brunei's chairmanship as its successor.
"The leaders fully support this. We fully support Brunei as ASEAN chair next year. We support each other," he said, adding that he is confident in the Sultanate's ability to handle the chairmanship.
Meanwhile, outgoing ASEAN Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan has also expressed optimism over Brunei's chairmanship.
He said he believed that it will pave the way for progress and a new architecture of cooperation in Southeast Asia.