The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) has overcome many political, economic and social challenges in the past 50 years, forging itself “to the next level of co-operation as a community,” Thailand ambassador Soonthorn Chaiyindeepum has said.
“We have overcome a lot of challenges and we are getting stronger,” said the envoy, who also chairs the Asean Committee in Doha (ACD) – a group of seven Asean embassies in Qatar established in November 2011 and working with stakeholders to enhance co-operation in various fields.
Chaiyindeepum was speaking on 50th founding anniversary celebration of the bloc on Tuesday at the Thai embassy in Doha. He was joined by ambassadors of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei in the flag-raising rites and ceremonial cake-cutting to mark the event, which was graced by Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Chief of Protocol Ibrahim Yousif Abdullah Fakhro.
Chaiyindeepum said Asean grew steadily and has become matured as a bloc in the past five decades, weathering the arms conflict in the region, Asian financial crisis in the 1990s, outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome at the turn of this century, and another global financial crisis a decade later.
“Today, Asean is more resilient, not only becoming stronger to meet with the new challenges,” he stressed. “It is also ready to contribute more to world peace and prosperity.”
The envoy said the bloc also cultivated close ties with all members of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), attaching great importance in establishing co-operation in various fields for the past 27 years since its first formal contact.
Asean sees a huge potential in its GCC relations, hoping to reinvigorate it for the mutual benefit in many areas such as food and energy security, trade and investment, tourism and health co-operation, among others, through existing framework.
Politically, Chaiyindeepum said they successfully promoted dialogue and co-operation for peace and security in the region with the holding of the annual Asean Regional Forum.
Economically, Asean played an important role contributing to the growth and prosperity in the region with the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC).
AEC offers opportunities in the form of a huge market of $2.6tn (combined GDP) and more than 622mn people. The single market it provides maps a route for an uninhibited flow of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and a freer flow of capital between all the member countries.
The bloc also attracted more than $120bn of foreign direct investment, according to Chaiyindeepum.
“At a time when it is going to enter the sixth decade, Asean is now embarking upon the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Co-operation (RCEP), which will include 16 countries in the region,” he added.
RCEP will cover more than 45% of the world population with $21.3tn of combined GDP and 40% of global trade.