(L to R) Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Myanmar President U Thein Sein, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Thailand Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III pose for a group photo during the opening ceremony of the 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders' meeting at Myanmar International Convention Center (MICC) in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, May 11, 2014. The 24th ASEAN leaders' meeting opened here Sunday morning, an event that Myanmar President U Thein Sein described as a symbol of "unity and dedication for building a better future for the region and the peoples." (Xinhua/U Aung)
Nay Pyi Taw, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The 24th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders' meeting opened here Sunday morning, an event that Myanmar President U Thein Sein described as a symbol of "unity and dedication for building a better future for the region and the peoples."
"It also reflects the importance that we attach to our collective and coordinated endeavors to promote peace, stability, and economic prosperity of our region, and the well-being of our people," Thein Sein said in his opening speech.
Themed "Moving forward in Unity to a Peaceful and Prosperous Community," the summit is expected to review the progress towards the realization of the ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 and discuss ways to overcome challenges in the process of economic integration.
Noting there are only one and a half years ahead, Thein Sein stressed it is imperative to take a comprehensive review on the implementation of the Blueprints for ASEAN Community, and to ensure that the targets are fully realized in the community building process.
"We are at a critical juncture and we need to make sure that all necessary steps in the community building are taken in a timely manner for the realization of ASEAN Community," he said.
The leaders will also deliberate the ASEAN Community Post-2015 vision, and reiterate ASEAN commitment in its collective efforts for a single market and production base.
"It is also equally important to map a clear direction for the ASEAN Community beyond 2015 to keep it relevant to the changing global environment," the president stressed.
In this regard, ASEAN leaders should take into consideration the changing political environment and socio-cultural developments of the region and the world, he added.
Created in 1967, ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Myanmar, which holds the ASEAN rotating presidency this year, hosted the ASEAN summit for the first time since it joined the regional bloc in 1997.
The ASEAN Community comprises three pillars, namely the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own blueprint, and together with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Strategic Framework and IAI Work Plan Phase II (2009-2015), they form the roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015).
Meanwhile, the president urged ASEAN to play a greater role in contributing to the world's peace and prosperity by taking collective and united responses to global issues of common concern.
He said ASEAN is following with "keen interest" on the developments in the Korean Peninsular, the Middle East and the Eastern Europe, adding, "regional and global issues of great concern to ASEAN will be extensively discussed" within the bloc.