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Thailand proposes strategy to cope with regional changes

Thailand has pushed ahead with a proposal to build up Asean centrality and a strategic approach to regional architecture beyond the 2015 community, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary of the Foreign Ministry, said yesterday.

Asean has positioned itself at the centre of the regional security architecture but such centrality has been challenged. The regional security landscape is changing due to the dichotomy of rising geo-economics and deteriorating geopolitics, he said.

Economic growth in this region is good for Asean centrality but geopolitical change after the competition of regional and global major powers could pose some negative risks to the region.

Thailand has drafted a paper to lay out a strategy for Asean to cope with the new landscape in the regional and international arena. The document would be used as a basic paper for Asean to discuss the future of the group after 2015.

Asean centrality, as proposed by Thailand, comprises five key dimensions - centrality within the group, ability to deal with regional flashpoints, skill to deal with major global powers, centrality of the regional security architecture and an active role in international forums.

Asean must strengthen its organisation and improve its ability and capacity to deal with all challenges from natural disasters to disputes.

There are several flashpoints that would directly hit regional security, such as the South China Sea and Korean Peninsula, which Asean has to deal with.

On the South China Sea, "more time should be allocated to not only discussing that issue but also proposing practical initiatives from Asean", according to the proposed paper seen by The Nation.

"On the Korean Peninsula and East China Sea, Asean should be prepared to be able to facilitate efforts at the bilateral level or among parties when requested," it said.

As competition among powerhouses such as the United States, China and Japan is intensifying, it might be more difficult for Asean, which has good relations with all of them, to remain neutral.

The group is not in a position to take sides since it could lead to divisions among the members of the group.

"So, Asean should take stances on an issue-by-issue basis, in a manner that serves the interests of Asean and the region," it said.

Asean is building up the community by the end of next year, but that should not be the end of it. The group should prepare a post-2015 vision and a strategy for the future.

There would be some new security threat in the future such as transborder crime, environmental problems, trafficking, terrorism and disease.

Asean from now on should benefit ordinary people and be a people-caring organisation, he added.


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