ASEAN must stick together against big powers: Malaysia’s PM Mahathir

Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the 34th Asean Summit (Plenary) in Bangkok, Thailand, yesterday. (Bernama pic). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Sep 3, 2019, FMT. Asean has remained a relevant regional grouping in the world and should continue to strengthen its cooperation in facing challenges and influence by superpowers, Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad sayd, reported the Free Malaysia Today.

Speaking at a university dialogue session on Balancing Relations with Superpowers, Mahathir said although many might claim that Asean is not as active as before, they could not deny the fact that the 10-member economic bloc was among the few regional groupings which had survived so far.

“If one of us (Asean member countries) goes into an international negotiation, it will not carry much weight and strength. Therefore, it is better we have discussions as Asean and go as a group representing all 10 member countries.

“If you look at many regions in the world, however, you may find Asean is one of the few peaceful and stable regions in the world because we work together. Asean is still very relevant and I hope it will continue to strengthen itself with greater cooperation among its member countries,” he said today.

The dialogue session was held at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

When asked whether any Asean member would leave the bloc, as with Britain leaving the European Union, Dr Mahathir said, “I don’t think it will happen”.

He said Asean was a loose association of countries which retained their identity and their own way of doing things but the bloc would make common stands in terms of trade. “We live in peace and prosperity for all.”

Mahathir said the US-China trade war was a waste of time, money and “very unproductive”. The two countries should try to negotiate or go to arbitration to settle things.

“After all, they are the people, especially the United States, that have been urging us to accept the rule of law. The trade war is not in accordance with the rule of law. So, I hope those who preach democracy and the rule of law should also abide by the same rule they propose for other countries,” he said.

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