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US Center Reflects Greater Asean Attention

The US has begun increased engagement with Asean, helping bring new levels of optimism to the region, US Ambassador to Asean Scot Marciel told VOA Khmer in an interview.

Marciel recently completed a diplomatic trip through the region, which has seen increasing economic growth in recent years.

“What we want is better partnerships, closer partnerships with Asean and with all the countries of Asean, where we can work together on a wide range of issues: trade, economic development, health, security concerns, nontraditional security threats, climate change,” Marciel said, at the launch of the Asean Studies Center at American University in Washington. “There’s a whole host of issues where there’s value in the United States working with countries of Southeast Asia. That’s what we’re looking for. We want to be a good partner.”

Asean welcomes American participation, Surin Pitsuwan, Asean secretary-general, told VOA Khmer.

“It’s a major superpower with a lot of resources in the fields of security, economic development, and technological progress, education, human resource,” Pitsuwan said. “If the US really engages with Asean, I think it is going to be a tremendous boost to Southeast Asia, to Asean, certainly to the entire region, because we are connecting major economies, like China, like Japan, and India, Australia together. So, it is important for the US to come back and reengage.”

Even the opening of a specific Asean study program signaled more engagement, he said.

“This is a new focus of intellectual undertaking on regional cooperation,” he said. “Asean is just one element of that regional cooperation.”

“It’s a great opportunity for Americans to have a center that focuses on Asean specifically, not just Southeast Asia as a whole,” Marciel said. “So it’s an opportunity to increase the level of scholarship in the United States about Asean and increase the awareness in the United States about Asean and its growing role.”

Louis Goodman, dean of American University’s School of International Service, told VOA Khmer that center reflected the increasing international importance of Asean.

Asean “is quite successful already and it will be more successful in the 21st Century,” Goodman said.