Asean meeting under Thai chair to discuss contentious issues next week in Chiang Mai

Asean meeting under Thai chair to discuss contentious issues next week in Chiang Mai

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee 
The Nation




Asean foreign ministers will next week gather in the northern Thai province of Chiang Mai to brainstorm on various vexing issues, including the Rakhine crisis, South China Sea, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and an Indo-Pacific Strategy aiming to maintain its “centrality” for regional security architecture.


The January 17-18 meeting will be the kick-off for Thailand’s year chairing the bloc, with all 10 full ministers of the group at the table, says the Asean Affairs Department’s director-general, Suriya Chinadawongse.


In the meeting, Asean Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi will brief the ministers about his mission to Myanmar late last year, in an attempt to help solve the problem in the strife-torn Rakhine State.


More than 700,000 people fled from violence in Rakhine to refugee camps on the Bangladesh border since August 2017 when militant attacks on security outposts prompted a disproportionate “clearance operation” by the Myanmar military that killed thousands of people. The Rohingya Muslim minority faced atrocities of arson, murder, torture, gang rape and massacre, which the United Nations and international human right defenders have labelled as akin to “genocide”.


The Asean ministers are expected to support the role of the secretary-general in providing humanitarian assistance to Myanmar to solve the problem, Suriya said. “The key is we have to offer a ‘comfort level’ for Myanmar to deal with the issue,” he told reporters.


The ministers would also discuss the contentious South China Sea as the group is in a negotiation process with China as it seeks a code of conduct.

Asean, whose many members are at loggerheads with China in territorial disputes over the South China Sea, is now considering the first reading of the text of a code of conduct. “We intend to have three readings of the text and expect to finish our first reading by this year,” Suriya said, noting China proposed last year in Singapore that the two should have the legal binding code of conduct in place by 2021.


The foreign ministers do not directly deal at the Chiang Mai meeting with negotiations for RCEP, but will demonstrate the political needed to support progress in the talks for a trade agreement.


RCEP, if completed as expected by the end of this year under Thailand’s year in the chair, would combine 16 economies in the Asia and Pacific into the world’s biggest economic bloc. The negotiation would benefit from the existing free-trade agreements Asean has with other countries in RCEP, but a major challenge is that some non-Asean members lack trade deals with each other, Suriya said.


The ministers at the Chiang Mai meeting will also explore the possibility of finding a common ground to deal with the Indo-Pacific Strategy, initiated by the US and its allies. The group wanted to have its own version of the strategy, but it might adopt a different name, he said.



-- © Copyright The Nation 2019-1-11
latest news from Chiang Mai

Video: Pushing in and showing no driving manners at all! video screenshot Dash cam footage on the We Love Pattaya page showed a driver trying to barge their way in in front of another car on a highway in the north of Thailand.  A black car is fish-tailed by another vehicle after trying to push...


 "7-Eleven" staff arrested for stealing tourist's credit card and buying goods Caption: Arrested: Convenience store staff took tourist's credit card to use Police in Chiang Mai have arrested three men for stealing a tourist's credit card and going on a spending spree. Watcharaphon "Art" Chaiyakun,...


Chiang Mai: Gambling crackdown on cuddly toys imminent! Caption: Yet more opening! Crane grab toy games sprouting up contrary to governor's orders Chiang Mai News reported that crane grab toy games were brazenly sprouting up all over the city contrary to the orders of the governor of the northern...


Pit bull savages child in Chiang Mai - owner pays 3,000 baht and no more Image: Spring News A distraught mother has gone to the press for help after her 11 year old son was savaged by a pit bull terrier that got loose from a restaurant in Chiang Mai.  Wiraphop "Nong Saeng" Chiangtung was happily...