PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—The COVID-19 pandemic, which had a devastating impact on the whole world, was one of the greatest challenges addressed by the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN).
“It is the most difficult, as countries closed their borders,” noted ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Paduka Lim Jock Hoi during the 11th Editors’ Roundtable organized by the Indonesia-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Khmer Times in Cambodia.
Recognizing the importance of mitigating its socio-economic effects, Lim said the regional bloc joined forces to cushion COVID-19 shocks which also claimed the lives of millions of people.
He noted that the ASEAN came up with a steadfast commitment to respond to the pandemic.
Lim said they raised funds to bankroll the need for medical equipment and supplies and medicines of the ASEAN communities.
He said the ASEAN laid down a concrete framework, making its communities more robust and more resilient to return to the pre-pandemic level.
Another challenge faced by ASEAN, Lim said, is the Myanmar crisis, which he described as “no light at the end of the tunnel due to the extended junta.”
While the 10-nation ASEAN crafted better strategies and institutional capacity to help, Lim insisted the bloc should not be held hostage by this crisis.
“ASEAN has many other things to do,” he pointed out,
In anticipating that the Myanmar junta will ask ASEAN to send “observers” to their country, Lim guaranteed they will not respond to that.
ASEAN adheres to consensus-based decision-making and a policy of non-interference in members’ internal affairs.
In the same Cambodia event, Filipino Dr. Aladin Rillo, ERIA Senior Economic Advisor, was among the panelists who tackled ‘Updates on Myanmar Crisis.
They also discussed the strengthening of the ASEAN community in the Indo-Pacific Era.
At the same time, ERIA’s Chief Operating Officer Koji Hachiyama said ASEAN is also facing new challenges due to the Ukraine War with Russia.
“Obviously, he said nobody could have predicted the Ukraine conflict and all the negative effects on the global communities that followed,” said Koji.
“The world today is extremely unpredictable with a major war in Europe,” he added.
But the ERIA official noted that the ASEAN region remains peaceful and “it is still a rendezvous place for all major powers to converge and talk to one another.”
“That is why ASEAN-related summits which will be held early next month are so important for all concerned in regional and international politics to exchange views and pledge to peacefully coexist,” Koji emphasized.
Currently, ‘ASEAN Vision Beyond 2025: Key Challenges’ has served as a clear trajectory for the Asean leaders to pursue, he said.
He related that ASEAN leaders opted last year that all the best minds of Asean must work out a new vision for the bloc that will go beyond 2025, a new vision that spans the decade 2026-2035.
The 11th ERIA Editors’ Roundtable, with the theme of “ASEAN and the Disruptive World,” focused on ASEAN’s Vision beyond 2025.
Key current and former ASEAN officials with insights and foresight participated in the deliberation. Selected editors and senior journalists from ASEAN and East Asia also joined the roundtable, which delved into the future of ASEAN and the region.
Myanmar was plunged into crisis in February last year when army chief Min Aung seized power in a coup.
Reports said 2,100 people were killed and nearly 12,000 were still detained under the regime’s crackdown.