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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     2 November  2011

Academics call for stronger Asean secretariat

While Asean embarks on its ambitious agenda of building a regional community by 2015, and expanding the East Asia Summit to incorporate the global community of nations, there is need to enhance the institutional capacity and resources of Asean, say several scholars.

“The Asean Secretariat must be strengthened to implement the Asean agenda. At present the secretariat is facing a shortage of staff and does not have enough facilities,” Rizal Sukma, the executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said at a joint symposium in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Another respected scholar, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, who is also an aide to Vice President Boediono, said he doubted the institutional capacity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“It’s a major step in not only building an ASEAN Community but also taking it into the Global Community of Nations beyond 2015. It is a big question whether Asean really has the capacity and resources to implement Asean agreements, Dewi said.

While echoing a similar view, noted CSIS economist Djisman Simanjuntak called for more financing for Asean activities from member countries.
“We need a stronger budget for Asean, commensurate with its regional integration,” Djisman said.

Currently, Asean has a relatively small budget and a small number of staff to oversee a wide range of activities.

“Our budget is small but it is misleading. We have so many programs funded by our Dialogue Partners, civil society and business organizations. So don’t look at only the sean Secretariat’s budget,” Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said on Monday during a press conference.

Asean’s strategic location, abundant natural resources and growing middle class make it strategically important.

“The global center of gravity is moving toward East Asia. Building an Asean Community comes at the right time. But it will be a major challenge to connect 10 different dots [10 Asean member states],” said Harvard University Asia Center manager Jon D. Mills.

The two-day symposium, which began on Monday, was jointly organized by the Government of Indonesia, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Harvard University.

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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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