2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It’s the Philippines’ great fortune – and burden – to host and chair the annual summit during this milestone when the leaders of the 10 Southeast Asian nations gather to discuss important issues as a true community. Each nation will be represented by their leader who will bring their own set of achievements and issues to the table. Who are they? Read on to find out.
Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines
The Philippines’ controversial, tough-talking President has plenty of fans in the ASEAN. Elected on an anti-drug platform, he has displayed a new face of the country, which looks more to its Asian neighbors than its Western roots.
Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia
Joko Widodo’s name first came into prominence in the Philippines in the case of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina accused of smuggling drugs into the Indonesia. His role as representing the accuser’s government tarnished his reputation in the country, which is a shame because of his accomplishments in Indonesia. Jokowi, as he is popularly called, is a former Javanese slum dweller, an outsider elected because he was a man of the people. He represented a new and clean government, and not the old elites. After his election, he led his nation into fiscal reforms that enabled him to start infrastructure projects.
Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia
The sixth and current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak has been in office since 2009. He has led Malaysia on the path of economic liberalization, such as cutting government subsidies and loosening restrictions on foreign investment, which helped his nation become one of the most competitive economies in the world.
Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
Son of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister who shaped his country into a global trading center, Lee Hsien Loong had large shoes to fill. As the third Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong introduced welcome reforms such as greater freedom of expression, five day work weeks, and two month maternity leaves. He also helped pave the way for increased trade with China.
Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand
Former Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, Prayut Chan-o-cha currently serves as Prime Minister of Thailand. He ended the 2013-14 Thai political crisis by taking power through a coup. In the years since, he has sought to bring peace, order, and stability to Thailand.
Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Prime Minister of Brunei
One of the wealthiest individuals in the world, Hassanal Bolkiah has sought to elevate his nation. He poured investment in education, security, health, and welfare while integrating his country into the ASEAN community.
Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia
First becoming a Prime Minister in 1985, Hun Sen was once the world’s youngest head of government at 32. He was sent back into that position in 1993 and 1998. Today, he is one of the longest serving leaders. Through the decades, he has guided Cambodian policy through various hardships.
Bounnhang Vorachith, President of Laos
Formerly Vice President, Bounnhang Vorachith was elected as President of his country and also General Secretary of Lao People’s Revolutionary Party in 2016. He has led Laos to grow closer with its ASEAN neighbors through further integration, in infrastructure and culture.
Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the most famous women in the world. Rising to prominence as a political prisoner under house arrest for a combined total of 15 years, she became State Counsellor, an office similar to the Prime Minister, in 2015. She has improved the Myanmar’s human rights record and opened up the country to trade.
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Prime Minister of Vietnam
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc became prime minister of the Vietnamese government in 2016. A newcomer like many others, he is expected to continue Vietnam’s current policies, which has made the country a leading figure in the region especially its vision of security in the West Philippine Sea.
What will these leaders discuss in the meeting? That will be our next topic! Subscribe to keep in touch with M2Comms.