23rd Asean Summit sees positive outcomes & progress
Danial Norjidi

BRUNEI’S term as Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has seen significant progress made in a number of key areas including the development of the Asean Community by 2015, strengthening cooperation with Asean’s partners and restoring a high level of unity and solidarity among member states, while also contributing greatly to the progress and connection of the Code of Conduct (CoC) in the South China Sea.

This was said yesterday by the Asean Secretary-General, Le Luong Minh, while speaking to the Borneo Bulletin in an interview shortly after the conclusion of the 23rd Asean Summit and its related Summits at the International Convention Centre (ICC).

Speaking on what has been achieved under Brunei’s chairmanship of the association, Luong Minh said, “We have seen the strengthening of cooperation between Asean and its partners.

“Overall we have seen very encouraging results in implementing the measures for the development of the community by December 2015, and that made the leaders comfortable in concluding that we shall have the community by 2015, so that’s a notable achievement,” he continued.

“We have also a very high level of unity and solidarity that has been restored under the chairmanship and we have seen the strengthening of our cooperation with our partners especially the major partners of Asean.

“Also, if you look at each pillar of the community, we have some important initiatives advanced by the chairman,” he added. “We have the East Asia initiative of strengthening cooperation within the ADMM framework and in the ADMM plus, [especially in the areas of] exercises and the establishment of a hotline for rescue at sea.”

At the previous Asean Summit in April, His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam suggested the introduction of a hotline to avoid undesired incidents at sea.

Speaking on the progress of this practical measure, the Secretary-General said, “We have not been able to do that yet, but it is an initiative that has been building support. Some measures can be done are avoiding and managing accidents, if they do occur.”

On the topic of the South China Sea, “Brunei as a chair and Thailand as a coordinator have contributed greatly to the progress and its connection.

“The Asean members had to get together to agree on a six-point principles to correct the situation. Since then, we have been able to engage China and discuss measures to ensure not only full and effective implementation on the DoC (Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea), but also we have been able to engage them on official consultations on the CoC as well as agreement on continuing this official consultation process.”

He said this has also contributed to the overall further strengthening of the cooperation of the partnership and one of its most dynamic as well as important partners in China.

He also mentioned, “The initiative by the chairman for the Mid-Term Review of the Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint”, noting that it had helped to establish how much progress that had been made and what else needed to be done.

Sharing his thoughts on this 23rd Asean Summit, he felt that talks and work done had been very productive, particularly in terms of the progress in building the community.

He also noted that there is a consensus between member states on the fundamental direction that Asean will take beyond 2015.

“That reflects the level of unity and solidarity in Asean,” he highlighted. “That’s been a real achievement.”

Yesterday saw Myanmar take on the Asean Chairmanship from Brunei, and when asked on what is to be expected next year, the Secretary-General shared, “There is a big amount of work for Asean and the Chair in 2014, as it is considered an important determining year for the association in this community building process.”

He said that Myanmar has been receiving very strong support from the Asean member states as well as the Asean Secretariat and partner countries of the association.

“We are quite confident that Myanmar will be able to undertake the chairmanship effectively and successfully,” he added.

When asked, on a personal note, what he would take away from this Asean year under the chairmanship of Brunei, he said, “Progress”.

“Progress in building the community will make us more confident, more optimistic that by the deadline of December 2015, we shall have the community in place, and Asean, again, is one of unity and solidarity as well as diversity.” - Borneo Bulletin (11 October 2013)