President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
President Thabo Mbeki,
Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies,
It is a great honor and pleasure to join you, honorable leaders of the Asian-African countries at this august Summit. On behalf of the Cambodian delegation, I extend our deep gratitude to the Government of Indonesia for the warm hospitality and for the excellent arrangements for the meeting. I would like also to take this opportunity to express our sympathies to the Government and People of Indonesia on the destruction and sufferings caused by the recent earthquake.
Asia and Africa have a long history of friendship, solidarity and cooperation reinforced by the historic Asian-African Conference in Bandung 1955. As one of the founders of the Bandung Spirit half a century ago, through the direct involvement of the Former King His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia is very proud today to join the commemoration of the golden jubilee of this historic summit to reflect back on what has happened since then and cast our vision to the future. In this regard, I would like to bring to all of you the greetings and good wishes of His Majesty Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk, the Great Father of Cambodia and His Majesty Norodom Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia, and the people and the Royal Government of Cambodia.
The Bandung spirit started a wave of decolonisation and emergence of newly independent states in Asia and Africa. It helped establish the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which provided a very critical and useful balance between opposing ideologies during the Cold War. But Asia and Africa continued to be the proxy battleground of great powers causing devastation and trauma to the local people. Cambodia is a prime example of such devastation and neglect and suffered the most in Asia. But we have emerged from our darkest chapter as a reinvigorated and vibrant, democratic, unified nation assuming our rightful place in the international community. Today, we look to the future with great optimism, borne out of own achievements through implementation of sound economic and social policies.
At this Summit, I suggest we focus on the key essentials that shall set our strategic partnership on its rightful course for the future. First of all, Cambodia commends the Asian-African Sub-Regional Organizations Conference (AASROC) process as a means of reinforcing the relevance and validity of the Bandung sprit.
Indeed, we all know that due to the forces of globalization and regionalism as well as the IT revolution over the last few decades, the world has continuously changed and undergone unexpectedly rapid transformation, fostering more favorable conditions for preventing and solving the lingering strategic and geopolitical problems. Nevertheless, the rapid evolution and revolution have also presented major challenges and uncertainty for our fragile world. Therefore, efforts to ensure peace among and between nations and the fulfillment of the basic needs of all continue to be an uphill struggle as we grapple with the interlinked problems of population growth, the growing digital divide, the specters of disease – particularly HIV/AIDS, SARS- wars in some regions, terrorism and transnational crime, the arms race and nuclear proliferation and especially the worsening disparities in development both across and within countries.
As a legitimate Leader receiving the mandate from our people, we have obligation to take measures to forcefully and effectively respond to both challenges and opportunities facing our peoples. I believe that the utmost priority of most of the countries in our two continents is to reduce poverty and work toward poverty elimination. This requires all of us to work at three different levels namely national, regional and inter-regional, and global level.
At national level, each government is required to lay out and actively implement reform programs in all sectors, especially governance in policy and poverty reduction strategy for our people, by focusing mainly on securing peace, security and stability and delivering the basic goods and services our people are entitled to. At the same time, for the long run, we must establish the vision, action plan and program to ensure high living standard and harmony for our people through sustainable social and economic development. In this regard, Cambodia highly appreciates the African Union for its program for poverty eradication, socio-economic development and growth so called “NEPAD” (New Partnership for Africa’s Development).
At the regional and cross-regional level, it is imperative for today for Asia and Africa to work even more closely to pool our resources to address the continuous and enormous challenges and grasp opportunity in the 21st Century. To this end, we need to enhance our cooperation in all levels and all areas ranging from political solidarity, security, development cooperation and economic integration to socio-cultural relations and people to people exchange between the two regions. Fostering relationship based on equal footing and mutual benefits will bring about shared prosperity and harmony. In this regard, we must revisit it in order to improve and further strengthen inter-governmental mechanisms, regional and sub-regional organizations and people to people interaction between the two continents. At this level of cooperation, I am very proud to take note that ASEAN has resolutely and confidently stepped forward far beyond.
At global level, we also need to strengthen cooperation on the core issues aimed at improving of the global environment for development through measures such as: increased ODA, debt reduction or debt write -off for poor countries, developing real free trade, especially in the framework of WTO, preferential tariffs on the exports of developing countries, and expanded technology transfer and measures to overcome the digital divide.
On the security, political and diplomatic front, we must jointly fight against terrorism that endangers people lives and the social fabric, regardless of the reasons for the acts committed either in the name of a religion or on national aspirations of any nation. With regard to elimination of weapons of mass destruction, Cambodia has joined with fellow ASEAN members in the establishment of the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality in Southeast Asia (ZOPFAN) and the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (SEANWFZ). This problem should be solved only through peaceful means.
Cambodia has always been an active member of the Bandung Asian-African Conference. I reaffirm our commitment to cementing our bonds with other member countries as together, we strive to throw off the shackles of economic backwardness and boldly assert our right to be prosperous and dignified nations.
Africa and Asia are two different continents, far separated. Yet we are of the same world, and our peoples and governments pursue the same aspirations – human dignity in life and work, and peace. Let us put our shoulders together in the cause of a sustainable better world. By working together, we will certainly prosper together. I thank you all for your kind attention.