Mon, 16 Jun 2003

Indonesia proposing ASEAN security community concept

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, The Jakarta Post, Phnom Penh

Indonesia will propose a security "community concept" to the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) that it says could serve as a road map to foresee and avoid possible conflict in the region.

The concept, to be presented at the 36th ASEAN ministerial meeting (AMM) here, was designed to provide relevance for the organization's existence, especially in the wake of emerging unconventional security threats in the region, such as terrorism.

In a document obtained by The Jakarta Post on Sunday, the concept aims at containing the prospect of war in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said earlier that some ugly events had occurred in the region over the past couple of years, with a series of terrorist attacks that culminated in last October's Bali bombings and other potential conflicts due to changes in global politics after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

The terrorist activities have been blamed on separatist movements that plague several countries in the region, such as Indonesia, which is currently conducting a military offensive against the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). The Philippines and Thailand are both fighting separatist Muslims.

The region has come under the international spotlight with the inclusion of the Southeast Asia Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist network on the United Nations' terrorist list, rampant arms smuggling and money laundering that continue to support terror activities there.

"We need to address these issue, and for an organization that has existed for 36 years, we should have a degree of maturity among member states to discuss these domestic problems," the minister said before leaving for the AMM, held on Monday and Tuesday. The meeting will be followed by the ASEAN Regional Forum on Wednesday, which will invite 10 regional partners, including the United States, Australia, Japan and China.

The concept does not suggest the establishment of a defense pact nor a military alliance nor ask for the commitment of member states to defend each other from external attacks, but seeks assurance for an end to the possibility of such conflicts occurring in the first place.

In the document, Indonesian states that the concept "is meant to provide a sense of purpose, a practical goal, and a future condition that all member states should strive for".

To attain the condition, in practice Indonesia will propose the establishment of several institutions to deal with regional security issues such as arms trafficking, fraud and money laundering, which will be tackled as part of the overall effort to combat terrorism.

"ASEAN should consider the establishment of an ASEAN center for combating terrorism and urge all member states to ratify all relevant international conventions in this area," the document states.

Another institution that Indonesia is proposing be established is an ASEAN peace-keeping training center to improve conflict prevention and resolution among member states.

To directly address smuggling and other maritime threats in the region, Indonesia underlines that the region may need to set up an ASEAN maritime surveillance center.

In the proposal, Indonesia asserts that the concept will continue to respect the basic principles of ASEAN such as noninterference, respect for national sovereignty, consensus based decision-making, and the renouncement of the threat or use of force.