12th November 2018
ASEAN NEEDS TO GET ITS ACTS TOGETHER
The upcoming ASEAN summit in Singapore starting Monday November 12 offers the opportunity for the ten member nations to get its acts together. For years the grouping has been seen as being directionless, individualistic, listless, to each it’s own, and even trying to outdo each other.
There are many problems facing ASEAN whether between nations or as a group, such as trade, money laundering, human trafficking, pirates, ISIS threat, cross border environmental pollution, separatist movement, etc. Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) would like to express our views on three key issues.
The South China Sea Conflict
Notwithstanding The Hague tribunal ruling against China in 2016 and the China’s ‘nine-dash-line’ territorial claim, ASEAN should boldly and together stand firm on the UN treaty on maritime territorial issues. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows for 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from the baseline of each nation’s territory, of which China is a signatory. This has to be ASEAN’s unwavering collective stand. Any negotiation with China on this contentious political issue has to be as a bloc and not involve other super power influence.
Political issues and territorial claims cannot and should not be allowed to stand in the way of mutual economic benefits. Beyond the EEZ, and even within, there can be joint mineral exploration for mutual benefits of nations. Joint exploration should be actively pursued as it also breaks the barrier of distrust.
The Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) Treaty should be actively pursued in view of the super power rivalry amidst military and economic domination in the world theaters. ASEAN as a bloc should stay neutral and not side with either US or China.
ASEAN should ensure that the militarisation of the South China Sea is diffused. Large warships and heavy armament installations in the region should not be allowed. Military exercise from any power for show of power, to intimidate and to test security vigilance should be seriously condemned.
Prosper Thy Neighbour Policy
In the midst of the current world economic uncertainties ahead, economic contraction, and a financial/banking spark leading to contagion and world economic depression, it is better for ASEAN to seriously adopt a ‘prosper thy neighbour’ policy. Covert sabotage and the attitude of trying to outdo each other should be a thing of the past. Only with collective resolves to improve economically will we stand a chance to mitigate the onslaught of a harsh economic depression.
The Rohingya Crisis
In the face of the current Rohingya crisis where untold sufferings and atrocities of various kinds are reported, ASEAN cannot stand by its non-interference policy towards its members. It is a matter of human dignity and basic human rights. Leaders must speak up and use all measures available to compel the government of Myanmar and the UN to do the right thing.
BD Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd)
President, Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan