The time has come for an international body that can actually solve problems and better serve the countries of the so-called Global South, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad argued in an interview. “I feel that there are now many common problems for the whole world,” he said.

 Mahathir, who also expressed the need for ASEAN members to address the ongoing Myanmar crisis, was speaking on the sidelines of the Future of Asia forum, Nikkei’s flagship annual conference. The event brings together top leaders from across the region to discuss ways to tackle global challenges.

 Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai and Laotian President Thongloun Sisoulith were among the luminaries who spoke at the forum, delivering appeals for peace amid the Ukraine war and rising geopolitical tensions. Laos’ Thongloun also commented on relations with China, saying his country is “proud” of its 1,000-kilometer railway completed in 2021 under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

 Meanwhile, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe declared his intention to apply for membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade bloc. He also talked about the country’s debt restructuring, saying that Sri Lanka will not strike a separate debt workout deal with China.