HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) -- The 15th ASEAN Summit opened here Friday with the theme of "Enhancing connectivity, empowering peoples".
The Summit is expected to focus on issues relating to the vision of ASEAN as a Community of Connectivity, a Community of Peoples. Also to be raised during the Summit are challenges that the region has to face, including food and energy security, climate change, pandemics, natural disasters and the financial and economic crisis.
"We now formally have in place the ASEAN Charter that will make the organization truly rules-based and more effective in enforcing what has been agreed upon among Member States," said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the opening ceremony of the Summit.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
On the vision for an ASEAN Community 2015, Abhisit stressed the importance of "connectivity" as a main contributor to sustainable growth and prosperity of a vibrant East Asia at large.
"This ASEAN Connectivity is only the first step. It needs to be linked with a larger East Asian connectivity where ASEAN will be connected to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, bringing progress and prosperity to all," said the Prime Minister.
However, in a contrary show of such connectivity, an unprecedented four ASEAN leaders missed the opening ceremony for one reason or another. They are Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Their absence forced the canceling of a traditional group photo session at the ceremony at the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin. The four countries were represented by senior officials at the ceremony.
The ASEAN summit is scheduled for Friday, followed by a series of related summits involving dialogue partners on Saturday and Sunday.
An official with Thailand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously said that all the ten national leaders will attend the ASEAN Summit, "but a few of them will come late."
In his opening speech, Abhisit also said he was pleased with the inauguration of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
"This important body, together with the establishment of the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children next year, will generate a momentum in an effort to promote and protect human rights in the region," he said.