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Asean Affairs  20 May 2011

Asean moves toward regional peacekeeping

By  David Swartzemtruber

AseanAffairs     20 May 2011

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Perhaps the ongoing border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia served as an inspiration, in any event, the Asean defense minister meeting in Jakarta have decided to establish a regional peacekeeping force.

Defence Ministers from the 10-member states have agreed to establish a Peacekeeping Centre network.

It is aimed at facilitating cooperation in peacekeeping among Asean countries - including planning, training and sharing experiences. The agreement was among several key areas reached at the meeting.

The regional grouping also agreed to enhance collaboration in the defense industry that entails sharing defense technology to enhance the capabilities of member countries. However, the arrangement is voluntary and non-binding.

Such cooperation may reduce suspicions among Asean members, some analysts said. The plans might reflect the embryonic development of an institutional way of solving internal conflicts.

The meeting’s joint statement said that the peacekeeping network aimed “to facilitate and utilize existing national peacekeeping centers to conduct planning, training and exchange of experiences for operations with a view to developing a regional arrangement for maintenance of peace and stability in Asean member states.”

Riefqi Muna, a political observer from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said the declaration demonstrated that there had been substantial progress in the security sector at ASEAN’s highest levels.

“Asean has started to move forward in the right direction,” he said.

Suspicions, Asean’s culture of non-interference and a sensitivity to outside threats previously limited member nations in forging closer military ties, he added.

Rizal Sukma, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said there was an urgent need for “Asean’s militaries to quickly build trust and comfort levels to cooperate among themselves while solving internal disputes amicably and to back away from using force if they want to realize a security community by 2015.”

Rizal cited the Thai-Cambodian border dispute as an example of how far the grouping was from achieving a security community, saying that domestic political concerns in Asean members such as Thailand, for example, might impede the realization of a security community.

Nevertheless, the agreement among the military–minded ministers reflects a major leap in the growth and maturity of the Asean community.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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