As summit gets underway, Asean needs to get its act together

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Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) would like to express our views on three key issues as the Asean summit gets underway.

The Asean summit in Singapore, starting Monday, 12 November 2018, offers the opportunity for the 10 member nations to get its acts together.

For years the grouping has been seen as being directionless, individualistic, listless, (observing the practice of) to each it’s own, and even trying to outdo one another.

There are many problems facing Asean whether between nations or as a group, such as trade disputes, money laundering, human trafficking, pirates, the Isis threat, cross-border environmental pollution and separatist movements. 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 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 allows for a 200-nautical mile 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 superpower 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 the mutual benefits of nations. Joint exploration should be actively pursued as it also breaks the barrier of distrust.

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The Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) treaty should be actively pursued in view of the superpower rivalry amidst military and economic domination in the world theatres. Asean as a bloc should stay neutral and not side with either the US or China.

Asean should ensure that the militarisation of the South China Sea is defused. Large warships and heavy armament installations in the region should not be allowed. Military exercises 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, 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 one another other should be a thing of the past. Only with collective resolve 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 suffering and atrocities of various kinds are reported, Asean cannot stand by its non-interference polity 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.

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