(8 August 2019)
Today is the 52nd anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); a regional grouping of ten countries established by a common desire and collective will to live in a region of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth, shared prosperity and social progress, and to promote our vital interests, ideals and aspirations. On this auspicious day, I have the pleasure to extend my warmest greetings and best wishes to our fellow citizens and to the peoples of ASEAN.
As we celebrate the occasion, we must also be reminded that ASEAN did not come this far easily. There were even doubts on whether it would thrive or whether it would meet its aspirations and commitments.
But it is clear that ASEAN, since its inception on 8 August 1967, has successfully evolved into a rules-based regional organization, giving legal personality in the pursuit of its purposes and principles as enshrined in the Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The collective strength of its three pillars further brings ASEAN into a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and people-oriented, people-centred community.
ASEAN today is moving toward a full realization of a Community which was established on 31 December 2015. In doing so, in this ever evolving regional architecture, we are committed to pursue our efforts through effectively engaging with Dialogue Partners and other stakeholders while upholding ASEAN centrality and unity. We are encouraged to see tangible results in various areas in this regard. There is no doubt that key enablers such as consultations and consensus have not only brought ASEAN thus far but also gained the confidence of many others. As a result, ASEAN has elevated its relationship with most of its Dialogue Partners to the strategic level. We are confident that the strategic partnership will forge us closer in realizing mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) has also served us well in the conduct of inter-State relations in the region and beyond. The rise in number of countries acceded to the TAC demonstrates the growing interests of the international community to engage with ASEAN. We also encourage the ASEAN Committees in Third Countries and International Organizations, as well as the accredited Permanent Representatives and non-ASEAN Ambassadors to ASEAN, to continue to engage closely in bridging ASEAN and the rest of the world.
On the other hand, ASEAN is committed toward further economic integration. We are working toward achieving the vision of the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. We also hope to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations within this year to reinvigorate international trade and to strengthen ASEAN economy and vibrancy.
In the same way, we wish to see success in the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) which is envisioned as a collaborative platform where up to three cities from each ASEAN Member States, including capitals, work toward a common goal of achieving smart and sustainable urban development. Its primary goal is to improve the lives of ASEAN citizens, using technology as an enabler. Through networking smart cities across ASEAN would contribute us to come together to explore potential complementarities, share best practices, develop individualized action plans for smart cities development for future and craft a framework for smart cities development that is unique to ASEAN. In Myanmar, we have identified Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon and Mandalay as the Pilot Cities.
Another important aspect is that 2019 has been designated as the ASEAN Cultural Year. We are aiming at bringing a unified voice through ASEAN culture and heritage to the world through cultural exchanges among the ASEAN Member States and with others. In Myanmar, events such as ASEAN food festival and charity bazaar are planned to take place in Mandalay and Yangon respectively. I urge everyone to take active participation since these activities will showcase the best of ASEAN and rich cultural diversity of ASEAN to our public and to the world. A Network of ASEAN Associations, expected to be launched soon, would also help to promote peoples’ awareness and sense of belonging to the ASEAN Community.
In order to sustain the achievements reached thus far, ASEAN Leaders at the 34th ASEAN Summit not only reaffirmed the importance of maintaining ASEAN centrality and unity in our Community-building efforts and engagement with external partners but also adopted the ASEAN Leaders’ Vision Statement on Partnership for Sustainability which aims to ensure sustainability in all dimensions.
ASEAN’s founding fathers, with their far-sighted aspirations enshrined in the Bangkok Declaration, paved the way for ASEAN to become a vibrant and thriving regional organization. These aspirations were further built up in the ASEAN Charter. Today, it is up to us to see how we would shape its future. May I take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to contribute to the advancement of our community building efforts. I also encourage our fellow citizens to actively join us in our efforts to promote peace, progress and prosperity for all in our region and beyond.