Saturday, November 17, 2007

Asean a happy family?

The ten Asean members will sign a charter in Singapore to mark yet another commitment to build a stronger community with over 500 million people.

According to news reports, the charter marks the first time that the 40-year-old bloc, which has often been described as a family by its member nations, will codify its basic principles and organisational rules.

The Straits Times said the 31-page Charter includes provisions for leaders to meet twice a year, new rules for settling disputes peacefully, more flexible decision-making processes, and steps to beef up the organisational structure of the grouping so that it is able to monitor and implement what members have agreed to do together.

Sophie's World has not seen the implementation details but is curious about the provision to resolve disputes. Will it be a motherhood statement about the need to resolve disputes peacefully without resorting to violence? Or will the charter spell out something concrete like all neighbourly disputes be referred to an international court or arbitrator if affected parties are unable to come to terms after 10 years of bilateral negotiations?

The provision is definitely an important point because there is no shortage of disputes within the so-called Asean family. Some of the family tiffs include:

1. Asean members' inability to rehabilitate the dumb generals and killers of Myanmar;
2. Malaysia and Singapore are crossing swords at the ICJ over a rock known as Pedra Branca or Pulau Batu Putih in the South China Sea;
3. Singapore and Malaysia still can't resolve their bilateral problems after nearly two decades;
4. Malaysia and Indonesia are still banning sale of sand to Singapore;
5. Indonesia and Singapore couldn't seal a treaty to extradite any Indonesian criminal in Singapore;
6. Singapore and Indonesia could not seal a defence cooperation agreement;
7. Nearly all Asean members are pissed off with Indonesia's annual haze;
8. Thailand is still seething over Singapore government investment arm Temasek Holdings' controversial deal with former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra's Shin Corp;
9. Indonesia and Malaysia have not fully embraced each other after another round of Konfrontasi;
10. Malaysia and Singapore can't even agree on a new overhead bridge to replace the old causeway to help improve the massive cross-border flow of goods and people, although Asean dreams about a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and freer flow of capital by 2015.

The Singapore charter is definitely a step in the right direction to set up a proper framework for the interaction of its ten family members.

But individual members of the Asean family must look at wider interests, not just their narrow self-interest.

Sophie's Note: Wikipedia
entry showing
satellite image of the 2006 Southeast Asian haze over Borneo.


A wild cat said...

I agreed with you where you mentioned

'But individual members of the Asean family must look at wider interests, not just their narrow self-interest.'

The thing is, will Singapore look at wider interests? To be frank, I still have doubts Singapore can.

So, Singapore, can you take the lead by looking at 'wider' interests?

Alan Wong said...

ASEAN = Whole bunch of hypocrites!

To sum it up there is a chinese saying : The heart runs counter to the mouth, "Kou He Xin Bu He".

Solidarity is all for show only, fulfilling one's self-interests is what that matters.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sophie, just discovered your insightful blog.

Just one more Malaysian-Singapore issue that really pissed off most Malaysian. It's the water issue, which under a very unfair agreement held years ago, Malaysia end up supplying Singapore with water at a cost of almost nothing and here we Malaysian are paying a bomb.

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