Sultan upholds cohesive Asean
By Azrol Azmi

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam last night underscored the importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) in promoting a "successful community".

Sometimes the leaders of the Association are working towards a community in the technical sense, with common political, commercial and security arrangements. At other times, we are concentrating on the human aspects of all communities, the Sultan added.

"But whatever the topic maybe on our Summit meetings, or in the day-to-day work of our government ministries, or among our business leaders and our government agencies, it is always centred upon our hopes for a future Southeast Asian community of lasting brotherhood and sisterhood."

His Majesty made these observations in an address delivered at a banquet in honour of the visiting Prime Minister of Lao People's Democratic Republic, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh.

The banquet was held at the Istana Nurul Iman.

His Majesty also said one of the most important ways to build a successful community is simply by getting to know each other, understanding each other, appreciating each other and learning from each other.

"And, in this, we greatly appreciate the contribution the Lao People have made both to our own relationship and to Asean."

This contribution is clearly reflected in the fact that our major regional development plan is named the "Vientiane Action Plan".

At the heart of this is a call for a "cohesive Asean Community". It is far more than words on paper. It is the most ambitious task ever undertaken in Southeast Asia, said His Majsety.

"It calls for us all to create a new Southeast Asia in which we work together in peace and stability.

"We have to believe in ourselves. We have to respect each other's faiths and we must all share our talents and expertise," added His Majesty.

Earlier in his address, His Majesty said, the Lao People and the people of Brunei Darussalam are good neighbours. Our governments are good partners, both bilaterally and in Asean and their leaders and officials are good colleagues.

"I mention these simple qualities because they are very important indeed in our region today. They lie at the heart of any successful community. And 'a successful community' is what we are all trying to achieve in Asean. This is what now inspires all our work as the Association's leaders," His Majesty added.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Lao PDR, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh, in his return speech to His Majesty address, said the people from Laos and Brunei have expressed their satisfaction with the increased development for our bilateral relations and cherished a fond memory of the decoration of the highest Medal of Honour between the two Heads of State that took place on the sidelines of the 10th Asean Summit in Vientiane, constituting a symbol of lasting friendship and close relations.

The prime minister added that cooperation between Brunei and Lao PDR has continued to grow relentlessly since the two countries established diplomatic relations and opened up their respective embassies in each other's capital.

The prime minister further added that following the joining of the Lao PDR into the Asean family and through the exchange of visits of heads of state, between cabinet members and at other levels, the mutual understanding, cooperation and mutual support and assistance in the Asean family has been further strengthened and enhanced.

Also present were HRH Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, HRH Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah and HRH Prince Abdul Malik.

The Lao PDR premier was received in a pre-banquet audience by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. (1st February 2007)