Patron: Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

ASEAN Centrality amidst US-China Rivalries

Guest Speaker: H.E. Ambassador Pou Sothirak
Executive Director of Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace

Event Date: Thursday 15th September 2022
Event Time: 4:00 pm-6:00 pm

Event Location: *ONLINE EVENT* | Zoom Meeting.
Zoom Meeting hosted by Asia Forum, Wellington.


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This event is also held in person at: Lecture Theatre 2, Old Government Buildings, Victoria University of Wellington, Pipitea Campus, 55 Lambton Quay, Wellington 6011.

2022 year is the 55th Anniversary of ASEAN and Cambodia is the current Chair of ASEAN.

It is very challenging time for ASEAN, specially for Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand which will respectively host ASEAN, G20 and APEC summits in November.

Asia Forum, in collaboration with the Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence, VUW and NZIIA (Wellington Branch) is proud to host an event to reflect on the journey that ASEAN and its members have been through and update on current regional and global issues at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings which Cambodia recently hosted in Phnom Penh.

With decades of relative peace and stability, ASEAN has prospered way beyond expectations, with high-growth and development and a steady improvement of its people’s wellbeing. According to Prak Sokhonn, Cambodian Foreign Minister, ASEAN centrality and unity is the hallmark of the bloc’s success and the primary driving force behind substantive dialogue and cooperation with its external partners.

H.E. Ambassador Pou Sothirak has been CICP Executive Director since 2013. He also serves as an Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia.

He was appointed as Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Cambodia from September 2013 to January 2014. He was a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of the Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore from January 2009 to December 2012. He also served as Cambodian Ambassador to Japan from April 2005 to November 2008. He was elected Cambodian Member of Parliaments twice during the national general election in 1993 and 2003. He was appointed as Minister of Industry Mines and Energy of the Royal Government of Cambodia from 1993 to 1998. He has written extensively on various issues concerning the development of Cambodia and the region.


The evolving regional and global security landscape requires the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to remain vigilance and creative so as to manage challenges and address issues that stand in the ‘ASEAN Way’ in improving its relevance and secure its interests in the longer term, while meeting the challenges and dynamics of regional and global development. As ASEAN moves ahead into the next half century, there are a few challenges that need to be confronted and addressed squarely to ensure ASEAN’s continued relevance, viability and vitality.

From the time of its inception in 1967 to full 10 membership of all Southeast Asia countries in 1999, ASEAN has evolved in stages, step-by-step, on the basis of consensus, non-interference, and at a pace comfortable to every member state. The hallmark “ASEAN Charter” was adopted only in 2008, the “ASEAN Community came into being in 2016” with the adoption of the new “Vision 2025”, all of which are designed to pick up more steam for the sake of navigating through a period of strategic, political and economic stagnations as well as concern and uncertainty from the grueling major power competitions and the yielding outbreak of the pandemic.  Moving forward, the regional grouping must constantly remind all its 10 members to remain united or else suffer outside powers inference that can undermine “ASEAN Centrality” affecting ASEAN’s traditional modus operandi and its fundamental cohesion.

At the moment, it fair to say that ASEAN centrality is respected by others. But there are scholars who have pointed out to the inadequacies of existing ASEAN mechanisms and have called for a revamp of these various frameworks as well as questioned the viability of the new ones, such as the ASEAN Outlook for the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). ASEAN needs an introspection upon its centrality to find out whether the grouping is still in the driver seat, having what it is required to exhibit robust leadership and capacity to steer effectively or not the East-Asian international relations.

As the world prepares to exit post Covid-19 couple with the intensification of US and China antagonism, the ASEAN Centrality continues to face many perennial challenges. Firstly, this presentation attempts to give a new meaning to ASEAN Centrality by focusing on one major challenge confronting the AC: the rivalry between the two most powerful states – the US and China in the Indo-Pacific theatre to show how it has adversely affected ASEAN. Secondly, the presentation highlights a few priorities for ASEAN to reinvigorate ASEAN Centrality amidst relentless rivalry between the US and China. At the end, a conclusion will be given based on a conviction that unless ASEAN Centrality can be enhanced, the region of Southeast Asia will remain in flux and susceptible to the unyielding influence by external powers.

*ONLINE EVENT* | Zoom Meeting.

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