ASEAN secretary-general visits ASU center in Washington, DC

Kao Kim Hourn speaks behind a lectern.

Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn delivers opening remarks preceding a Q&A session with the audience during a visit to the recently opened U.S.-ASEAN Center. Photo courtesy of Hager Sharp

For the first time in his role as the 15th secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, Kao Kim Hourn paid a working visit to the recently opened U.S.-ASEAN Center, established at the ASU Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center in our nation’s capital.

Hourn, who is now 18 months into his role, is the former president of the University of Cambodia and served the Royal Government of Cambodia as the secretary of state of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, succeeding Lim Jock Hoi of member-state Brunei.

“Today, we welcome Secretary-General Hourn to inaugurate the U.S.-ASEAN Center Speaker Series, which will bring important figures from ASEAN here to the Barrett & O’Connor Center,” said retired Ambassador Piper Campbell, the director of the ASEAN Studies Initiative at American University and ninth U.S. ambassador to Mongolia, as she moderated the discussion with the guest of honor.

The secretary-general was greeted by a standing room-only crowd of diplomats, foreign policy fellows, students and industry experts representing the leading think tanks and Southeast Asian Studies programs at Washington, D.C., universities.

“ASEAN is advancing cooperation and partnership among our members,” Hourn said. “It’s my hope that we will be able to build on the achievements and successes from the past 47 years of partnership with the U.S.”

Brian Eyler, an event attendee and director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia program, asked the secretary-general about the increase of cyber-enabled crimes and online scam operations.

“Where does cybercrime rank on your agenda here in Washington?” Eyler asked.

Hourn said ASEAN recently formed a working group to strengthen online security and prevent financial.

Another attendee, Anthony Nelson, associate partner at Albright Stonebridge Group, a consulting group, asked about sharing best practices for public health and pandemic preparedness following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hourn explained that preparedness will be key for containing any future pandemic.

“We have to be ready on time, rather than trying to fix it afterwards,” Hourn said. “We need to focus on prevention.”

Earlier that same afternoon, the U.S. Department of State organized a media roundtable at the Barrett & O’Connor Center with Hourn and members from the ASEAN Secretariat delegation. The roundtable was an open dialogue about the direction of the U.S.-ASEAN partnership between the delegation and leading journalists covering Southeast Asian affairs. Joining the delegation at the roundtable were correspondents from the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Radio Free Asia, Reuters, The Washington Post and Voice of America.

“From the very beginning, ASEAN was all about peace and development,” Hourn told the assembled press. “We’re working together collectively to maintain peace to preserve these at the same time, so that we can mobilize the resources and energy to focus on prospered agenda.”

In December 2023, ASU — in partnership with the U.S. Department of State — launched the U.S.-ASEAN Center to bolster U.S. economic and cultural engagement with Southeast Asia.

The secretary-general visited Washington from June 10–12 in partnership with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to advance ASEAN public diplomacy and visibility.

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