Asian 'peace council' is born

national September 05, 2012 00:00

By Vijitra Duangdee
The Nation

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Former statesmen to announce new body, seeking to reduce conflict, today

Asian statesmen and leading international public policy figures will finalise a historic plan in Bangkok today to set up an Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council. The body is intended to help regional peace efforts in a fast-moving and more complex world.

The statesmen are scheduled to announce the formation of the peace council after reiterating their consensus on the virtues of the organisation at a roundtable talk with Nation editor-in-chief Suthichai Yoon, at the Plaza Athenee Hotel yesterday.
Their Bangkok forum was put together by Dr Surakiart Sathirathai, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, after he and the leading regional figures shared an idea that it would be beneficial to Asia as a whole if there was a vehicle to help nations prevent future conflict and facilitate peace processes throughout the continent.
During the roundtable talk, it was optimistically agreed that one key advantage of the peace council was founding members’ vast connections in their own countries and beyond. The council’s role is based on the belief that such connections would enable rival parties, who might otherwise never be able to link up, find channels to communicate.
Several Asian countries are locked in internal as well as regional conflicts, such as clashes in Sri Lanka, Indonesia’s Aceh, Thailand’s Muslim-majority deep South and battles in the South China Sea, which Surakiart said the proposed Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council could help resolve. 
“The biggest contribution given to the APRC by the members is time, sincerity, and a sense of purpose,” Surakiart said. 
Shaukat Aziz, former prime minister of Pakistan, described Asia as land of opportunities and growth, but said peace was a key ingredient if it was to achieve its great potential.
“We want to be seen as a catalyst for promoting peace and reconciliation. Asia is land of opportunities and growth and the key ingredient to growth is a mechanism of sustainable peace and stability. Peace is a key ingredient for improvement and development,” he said. 
Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, said a body like the APRC would have come in handy to help reduce tension during the 2006 political crisis in his homeland.  
David Kennedy, a professor of law and director of Harvard Law School’s Institute of Global Law and Policy, said: “The value added by this group is that it is devoted to Asia. There are very few such groups with an Asia-wide-focus that is composed of individuals with great governmental experiences [who are now] outside government.”
“It’s not positioned in the way that an NGO,[or]  think tank might be,” he added. 
“The relationship with the APRC to the UN would be equal to a cooperative. A group like this can add value to the UN.” 
Dr Alfred Gusenbauer, PhD and former chancellor of Austria: “You’d fail if you are trying to put this organisation in a box. Nobody is exclusive on their wisdom.” 
Prof Shunmugam Jayakumar, who held several key Cabinet positions in Singapore, said the council would take low-key yet determined steps to help solve conflicts and restore peace, because “hallmark of success depends on quiet diplomacy”.

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