File photo : Asean Summit in Malaysia.
File photo : Asean Summit in Malaysia.

Asean summit to discuss South China Sea rows

ASEAN+ April 13, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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Prayut will attend meeting in Manila focusing on security

PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha will attend the Asean summit in Manila on April 29 to discuss community building as well as regional and global issues, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Various regional security matters, including the contentious South China Sea disputes, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula will be part of the discussions, said the deputy director-general of Asean Affairs Department, Suriya Jindawong.

The Philippines, which chairs Asean this year, launched the summit under the theme of “people-centred, innovation-led growth and a resilient Asean”.

The main discussion among Asean leaders will seek to forge cooperation to build and enhance the sense of community as the regional group commemorates its 50th anniversary this year, he said.

During the meeting, leaders will also be updated on the progress on the South China Sea “code of conduct”, a legal instrument being prepared by Asean and China to control the behaviour of countries in the contentious zone, Suriya said.

The Philippines and other Asean members, including Vietnam and Malaysia, have been at loggerheads with China over territorial disputes in the sea for years.

The group signed a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002 but the non-binding document failed to prevent tensions from worsening.

Experts and officials from both sides were working to construct a framework on the so-called code of conduct and were expected to conclude it by the middle of the year, Suriya said.

After the framework is agreed, the parties will begin negotiations on the text of the code of conduct.

The plight of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar was not on the summit schedule as Asean considered the controversial issue to be a domestic affair, but that did not prevent members from making recommendations and suggestions to Myanmar to solve the problem, he said.

Many Asean members, including Thailand, have offered humanitarian assistance to Rohingya in Rakhine State in the recent crisis, which saw the Myanmar armed forces crack down on communities following an attack on a police outpost last October.

On the sidelines of the Asean summit, Prayut will also deliver a speech at the Asean Business Advisory Council, focusing on the roles of micro, small and medium enterprises in generating growth within the Asean Economic Community, according to ministry spokesperson Busadee Santipitaks.

Prayut will also attend the 10th summit of the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle on the sidelines of the summit, she said.

Asean holds summits twice a year. The April in-house discussion will only include the 10 state leaders of the group while the second scheduled for November will see leaders meet dialogue partners such as the United States and China.