ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Asean Summit-a mixed bag
By David Swartzemtruber
Clearly the biggest setback was the inability to bring Thailand and Cambodia closer together to end the border dispute between the two countries. The disagreement has claimed 18 lives and displaced residents on both sides of the border. At this point an uneasy truce is holding since last week.
Another headline-grabbing story is Myanmar’s request to take the chairmanship of Asean in 2014. Originally scheduled for 2016, Myanmar swapped chairs with Laos. As it stands, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will make a fact-finding trip to Myanmar assess the progress of democratic reform in the next few weeks. His report will be crucial to Asean’s decision on the issue that will come in November.
Political observers say that following Myanmar’s “fixed” election, the chairmanship is a move by the Myanmar military to provide a sort of international “certification” to their legitimacy. Many governments and human rights NGOs oppose the chairmanship quest.
The brightest spot of the summit probably was the emphasis put on an Asean food security program by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Speaking during the opening of the two-day 18th Asean Summit on Saturday, Yudhoyono said food security would be Asean’s greatest challenge. He said one step Asean must take immediately is implementing the Asean Integrated Food Security Framework (AIFS), which includes research, development and investment in food production.
The AIFS and the Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security were initially adopted during the 14th Asean Summit in Thailand in 2009. The two plans, which cover a period from 2009 to 2013, were formulated to ensure food security and improve the livelihood of farmers in the region. A United Nations report earlier this year showed Asia’s three most populous countries — China, India and Indonesia — were especially vulnerable to further surges in the price of staples such as rice and wheat. Rice is the staple food for most people in Asean, and Indonesia has called on its fellow members to increase their rice reserves amid the threat of climate change.
Total reserves that have been agreed upon among the members have reached around 878,000 tons of rice, with each country being responsible for providing certain amount of the reserves. Three countries outside Asean — Japan, China and South Korea — have pledged to provide more than 200,000 tons, with the rest to be provided by each Asean member country.
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