HM: Good discussions among ASEAN Leaders to advance the region’s community building, pandemic recovery

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam highlighted key initiatives from the newly concluded ASEAN Summit 2021 that are collectively agreed by ASEAN Leaders with hopes to strengthen the region’s preparedness for future challenges. 

The monarch at the closing ceremony on Wednesday said that the Leaders had good discussions on ways to advance ASEAN community building and recovery from the covid-19 pandemic.

Among the key concerns include the BSB Declaration on ASEAN SHIELD which aims to create a more coordinated and responsive ASEAN as the region continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic as the region continues to face the COVID 19 pandemic.

“We priortise helping our people including by securing vaccines and protecting their well-being through the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on CARE Economy, notably in ASEAN and with its partners in the ASEAN Plus Three and East Asia Summit,” said His Majesty the Sultan.

We are working together to better understanding and care for our people’s mental health during these challenging times, he added.

Throughout the three-day Summit, ASEAN Leaders have made progress with their external relations and pleased that ASEAN has agreed to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with both Australia and China that will foster more meaningful, substantial and mutually beneficial relationships moving forward.

Moreover, the bloc also welcomed the confinement of the United Kingdom as new dialogue partner of ASEAN, the first in over 25 years whereby Brunei Darussalam will be the ASEAN Country Coordinator.

ASEAN also celebrated the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-Russia relations and looked forward with to the Special ASEAN-China summit to celebrate its 30th anniversary in November.

“I am also pleased to have chaired the first annual ASEAN-Australia Summit, as well as the first ASEAN-US Summit for President Biden and the first ASEAN-Japan Summit for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida,” continued the monarch.

ASEAN also strengthens its cooperation with India, Japan and the Republic of Korea, in line with the ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

His Majesty further noted that during the ASEAN Plus Three Summit and East Asia Summit, discussions focused on cooperation to promote economic recovery and public health as well as addressing longer term impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic, such as mental health issues and ways to achieve sustainable and green recovery.

“Throughout all the meetings, we have ended exchanges of issues of regional and international importance, including the situation in Myanmar,” he continued.

The Sultan added: “Myanmar remains an integral part of ASEAN family and hoped for the return to normalcy in accordance with the will of the people as well as the timely implementation of the Five-Point Consensus.”

Following the closing remarks, His Majesty the Sultan then answered three questions in a press conference.

For discussions on Myanmar, what were the support and criticisms raised from the ASEAN partners. The bloc has taken a big step in excluding Myanmar from the ASEAN Summits. But considering the continued violence there and the lack of progress on the 5-point consensus, so why is ASEAN not willing to take stronger actions against Myanmar?

The situation in Myanmar was raised during several meetings and the details have been reflected in the chairman statement. Overall, ASEAN member states hope Myanmar will return to normalcy in accordance to the will of its people. 

For this meeting, we have given Myanmar space while firmly upholding the principles enshrined in the ASEAN charter including of non-interference, calling the people of Myanmar can fully resolve their own internal situation.

Myanmar is an integral part of the ASEAN family, and their membership has not been questioned. ASEAN will always be there for Myanmar, and we have continued to offer help through the implementation of the five-point consensus that we all agreed on in Jakarta. 

With the pandemic still affecting most ASEAN countries as well as Brunei, and as ASEAN Chairman, what are ASEAN’s measures and strategies in ensuring the ASEAN Community remains sustainable and remains competitive post-COVID-19?

2021 has been a challenging year for many in this region where the impact of COVID-19 is still felt. However, Alhamdulillah, ASEAN has continued to enhance community development through deliverables that focus on helping citizens to recover from the pandemic.

ASEAN has managed to acquire more than $10.5 million dollars’ worth of vaccines for people in ASEAN through the COVID-19 ASEAN Response Fund. ASEAN will also begin implementing measures to ease essential travel through ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement Framework.

Besides this, ASEAN has approved the ASEAN Comprehensive Framework on Care Economy to promote inclusive socioeconomic development in the region. ASEAN is also now making efforts to ensure sustainable recovery by implementing the circular economy model and exploring opportunities to expand Blue Economy.

At the same time, ASEAN remains committed in the implementation of RCEP Agreement which will support the region’s efforts to recover and open more opportunities to businesses/entrepreneurs.

The US, UK and Australia recently announced the new defense partnership that many say will increase strategic competition with China and the Indo-Pacific, with the potential to also undermine ASEAN Centrality.  There are many divergent views on this among ASEAN members, some of those concerns are the potential to increase tension in the region while other members have been supportive with the pact as a counterbalance to Chinese dominance.Is His Majesty of the view that the Orcas Defense Partnership would be beneficial or detrimental to regional peace and stability?

Indeed, we have seen a rise in views on strategic competition in the recent years. At the same time, we have also witnessed growing cooperation and an increase in the number of partners working with ASEAN such as the UK. For more than 50 years, ASEAN has helped build trust and cooperation with them and between our partners.

In doing so, we have continued to uphold our principles as we affirm in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific for an open, inclusive and rule-based framework. 

We hope that the new security partnership would contribute constructively to regional peace and stability and complement the regional architecture. 

We encourage all our partners to uphold and promote multilateralism bounded on the principles of the charter of the United Nations and anchored in international law. This includes the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Overall, I believe we are all in agreement on the need for a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.


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