Renowned Former Singapore FM Discusses ASEAN's Role in the Era of Multipolarity

date_range 08-Dec-2023
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Phnom Penh, December 08, 2023 --

Visiting renowned former Singapore Foreign Minister, Mr. George Yeo, has given a special public lecture titled "Maintaining ASEAN's Balance in the Transition to a Multipolar World" at the National Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations (NIDIR) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC).

According to the MFAIC, Mr. Yeo is a visiting scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore and the Founding Patron of its Asia Competitiveness Institute. Mr. Yeo has held senior positions in both public and private sectors. He served 23 years (1988-2011) in the Singapore Government as Minister of Information and Arts, Trade and Industry, and Foreign Affairs.

At the start of the lecture held on Dec. 6, the former veteran diplomat and politician of Singapore noted the tremendous progress Cambodia has achieved over the past decades, transforming itself from a war-torn into an economically vibrant country. These unprecedented achievements could not have occurred without peace and political stability.

Former Minister Yeo went on to discuss the rise of China. He believes that China's rise will present an economic challenge to the West; however, it will not threaten any country. In addition to China's rise, poles of power in other continents have emerged. The rise of these poles will transform the world into a multi-polar system despite U.S. and Western resistance.

ASEAN needs to secure its position in this great transformation. Within this context, former Minister contended that ASEAN must adapt and adjust to changing pressures from different directions. However, former Minister Yeo cautioned that it is imperative that ASEAN not pick a side in the great power rivalry. Furthermore, ASEAN needs to maintain its unity. The organisation should continue to maintain the ASEAN Way of resolving issues. The former Minister counseled that it would be counter-productive for the United States to pressure ASEAN Member States to pick sides. If the United States did not pressure and interfere in the affairs of ASEAN Member States, these states would welcome the United States' engagement in the region.

Two hundred people from ministries, embassies, universities, think tanks, and news agencies attended the special lecture. Many attendees asked thoughtful questions that drew responses from Mr. Yeo, incorporating multiple examples from current events, world history, and civilisations.

Mr. Yeo was scheduled to deliver another special lecture at the Royal University of Phnom Penh titled "Threats and Opportunities for Small Countries in a Multipolar World" on Dec. 7.