Sunday, March 1, 2009

Security ties top unity effort

Crucial to economic success, summit told ( bangkorpost)

PHETCHABURI : Political and security cooperation among members will be the springboard for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' plan to build economic success.

Pimpen Vejjajiva,second left, wife of Prime Minister Abhisit, and the wives of the other Asean leaders, the group secretary-general and Thai foreign minister tour Mrigadayavan Palace in Cha-am. SAROT MEKSOPHAWANNAKUL

A pledge to foster ties on political and security issues is one of three areas endorsed by 10 Asean leaders at the end of their summit Sunday. The others were to cooperate on the economy and in social and cultural areas.

Asean aims to achieve a European Union-like community by 2015.

A 19-page declaration sets out a vision of Asean as "a rules-based community of shared values and norms, a cohesive peaceful, stable and resilient region with shared responsibility for comprehensive security, as well as a dynamic and outward-looking region in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world", according to the chairman's statement.

Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the results of the Asean defence ministers' meeting in Pattaya last week, which reinforced Asean ability to deal with non-traditional security challenges such as disaster with more cooperation with civil society organisations, would help strengthen political and security ties within Asean.

His predecessor, Ong Keng Yong, said the summit's adoption of the political and security blueprint was a milestone for Asean success.

"This will create a good atmosphere as all member countries are pledging and preparing to extend more cooperation in the political and security areas. However, more confidence will be acquired through a step-by-step process," said Mr Ong, now ambassador at large to the foreign ministry of Singapore.

"We can't achieve economic agenda if we don't have political and security cooperation."

He conceded that the commitment to drawing up a blueprint would not solve bilateral disputes within the region but said it would "set the ball rolling".

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Asean leaders did not discuss the drafting process for the establishment of the Asean Human Rights Body.

He said the body to be set up at the next Asean summit in October was not a "magic pill" to end human right violations in the region.

"The establishment of the body to promote and protect human rights of Asean people would be one of the most important undertakings to make Asean a genuinely people-oriented community," he said.

The chairman's statement did not offer solutions specifically to the Rohingya situation when he discussed boat people from Burma.

"We refer to illegal migrants in the Indian Ocean since the term is wider, covering more groups of people, not only the Bengali or Rohingya people," he said.

Mr Abhisit and Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said the issue would be addressed among countries of origin, transit and destination.

"Now the issue will be on the regional agenda, Thailand will no longer be a defendant in the eyes of the world's community," Mr Abhisit said.

On Burma, the Asean leaders did not mention the name of pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi. The chairman's statement only said the release of political detainees and the inclusion of all parties in the process leading to the general elections in 2010 would contribute to national reconciliation.

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