Sultan will bring progress to Asean Community: Surin
Danial Norjidi in Phnom Penh

Asean is fully confident that as the Asean Chair next year, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam will bring progress to the Asean Community and contribute to both community building and new architecture of cooperation for Southeast Asia.

Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Asean Secretary-General, said this while responding to a question posed by the Borneo Bulletin during a press conference at the International Media Centre in Phnom Penh yesterday.

Responding to the question on Brunei's chairmanship of Asean, he said, "I have just asked His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, 'Is Brunei ready?', and he said, 'Yes, of course'.

"Brunei has been a very active member of Asean. It has chaired Asean before and has hosted the APEC summit before and Brunei has a lot of initiatives being readied for the consideration of the Asean leaders," he continued.

Dr Surin expressed his belief that Brunei, and the leadership of Brunei, "while small, is very agile".

"It is very, very capable and very, very able to steer the community towards the goal of 2015," he said. "Already, Brunei has been very active, consulting, preparing and working behind the curtains, planning for its own chairmanship beginning January 1."

The handover, however, will take place here, and will see His Majesty receive the symbolic document which will pass on the chairmanship from Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen at the closing ceremony of the 21st Asean Summit on November 20.

"We have full confidence that the Sultan acting as chair of Asean next year will bring a lot of progress to the Asean community and contribute to the community building and new architecture of cooperation for Southeast Asia."

In the press conference, the Asean Secretary-General shared with media an overview of what had been discussed by the leaders over the course of the meetings that took place yesterday.

"This morning, the leaders met in their plenary session, and they have addressed many issues pertinent to the work of Asean," he said. "First of all, they expressed their satisfaction at the way in which the Asean Community is progressing. They have taken note of the fact that in external relations in the political and security villa, Asean has established itself more firmly in the architecture of international cooperation.

He said that all in all, the health of the Asean Community for 2015 is excellent in some areas, but also admitted that there are other areas that still need some fine tuning.

He affirmed, however, that they "are working and are talking towards the goal of 2015 with confidence".

Dr Surin also mentioned that the Asean leaders have approved of his successor from Vietnam to take over starting January 1, 2013, and that he will be ending his term as Secretary-General at the current Summit.

Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary of State for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also held a press conference later in the day.

When asked by the Borneo Bulletin on the sidelines of the press conference for his thoughts on Brunei's upcoming chairmanship of Asean, the Secretary answered, "The leaders fully support this. We fully support Brunei as Asean Chair next year."

Continuing, he affirmed his belief in Brunei's capability to chair next year when asked, saying, "Of course, of course," before adding, "We support each other."

In the press conference, the Secretary of State said that the Asean leaders had agreed to set December 31, 2015 as the official launching date of the Asean Community, and also mentioned that they had agreed to discussions in regards to the South China Sea would be conducted between Asean and China as they have been ongoing to date. - Borneo Bulletin (19 November 2012)