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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs   8 October 2013  

ASEAN leaders to discuss high-level task force, monitoring haze at summit

SINGAPORE: A high-level task force to support the ASEAN Secretariat to monitor and implement its community integration programme beyond 2015 is one key issue on the agenda for the ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Brunei, beginning Wednesday.

Another housekeeping issue is monitoring the haze.

When the leaders meet, they will take stock of what has been achieved so far, and direct their officials to press ahead.

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said: "It doesn't end there, 2015 integration must lead on to something else. Basically, when you talk about integration, you are talking about closer connectivity, closer cultural cooperation, closer economic cooperation, substantial reduction of tariffs, so in that context, what then happens post-2015.

“The leaders will also be looking at after 2015, and will give some directions. We have negotiated a reduction of a substantial number of the tariffs but not all, and there are issues remaining on exactly what sort of services are cross-border which can be done. These are technical issues which the respective experts will discuss with the respective ministries."

ASEAN's leaders are also expected to receive a report on the grouping's haze monitoring system. This issue of the haze has been discussed at two levels - both at the foreign ministers' and the environment ministers' levels.

It is understood that the leaders of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia would be shown a demonstration of the ASEAN haze monitoring system.

Mr Shanmugam said: "The foreign ministers agreed that the leaders of the three countries will meet on the sidelines of the summit to consider this haze issue, and eventually, it will by agreement also be taken up by the summit leaders themselves.

“The issue of concession maps has not been resolved yet. This is a matter within Indonesian sovereignty. We believe it is good for concession maps to be made available, so that there can be monitoring internationally, and that is a matter that we will continue to discuss."

On the South China Sea dispute, Mr Shanmugam said ASEAN has seen good progress, with discussions already on with China on a Code of Conduct (COC).

During his recent visit to Indonesia, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China seeks a peaceful resolution of the disputes and has called for equal-footed talks to solve the territorial issues.

Mr Shanmugam said: "If we make good progress on the COC, that will help reduce tensions. But as to what might happen, what might not happen, whether there can be some incidents leading to increased tensions, who knows? This is what we hope, and we hope that through the process of the COC, we can achieve a reduction in tension."

Senior officials also said Brunei has done much to restore ASEAN's credibility and unity, which slipped somewhat under Cambodia's term.

Myanmar will take over the ASEAN chair for 2014 when the summit closes on Thursday.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More






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