Mon, 16 Jun 2003

ASEAN to curb gunrunning to Aceh

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) member countries are shortly expected to demonstrate their support for Indonesia's national integrity amid the independence struggle being waged by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

In a draft joint communique from the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) obtained by The Jakarta Post on Sunday, the 10 member countries of ASEAN stressed their recognition of Aceh as an integral part of Indonesia.

According to article 22 of the draft, the ASEAN countries pledge their support to the effort to deny the separatist movement access to the means of perpetrating violence, especially through preventing arms smuggling into Aceh province.

In the draft, ASEAN also reiterates its recognition of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of Indonesia, including Aceh, which is currently under martial law.

It adds that the ASEAN countries recognize the efforts of the Indonesian government to restore peace and order in Aceh.

Indonesia has been struggling to restrict GAM's access to the outside world, including preventing it from obtaining arms and its members from seeking political asylum, during the current massive military offensive in the province.

The national police had earlier sought Thailand's cooperation in ensuring the elimination of gunrunning from that country and the arrest of GAM leader Zakariah Zaman, who is said to have sought refuge in Thailand.

During his visit to Jakarta last month, Thai foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai pledged his government's support in curbing the illicit trafficking of arms from a certain parts of Thailand to Aceh.

Jakarta has also sought the help of the Swedish government to restrict the room for maneuver of GAM leaders in exile, especially Hasan Tiro, Malik Mahmood and Zaini Abdullah, all of whom are currently residing in Stockholm and have taken out Swedish citizenship.

So far, the ASEAN member countries have shown their full support for Indonesia and intensified cooperation with the Indonesian police for the purpose of detecting the presence of GAM leaders who might have fled the province to neighboring countries.

A senior Indonesian diplomat said that the statement shows that the ASEAN member countries fully understand that security in Indonesia, as the largest country in the regional grouping, is a significant factor in regional security as a whole.