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When the 18th Asean Summit concluded on May 8 the results, particularly in the field of diplomacy were anemic as little progress was made in the hottest issue of the day-the Thai-Cambodia border conflict.
Later, at the Asean defense ministers meeting, a truce was established that has held in place. With the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice establishing a Demilitarized Zone, things have at least calmed down on the border for a while, pending the arrival of Indonesian observers.
But moving on to the Asean Forum meeting of Asean foreign ministers, greater success has been achieved through the signing of an agreement between China and Asean to guidelines on a potential code of conduct governing activities in the resource-rich and strategically important waterway.
Although critics were quick to point out that the agreement had been “watered down,” the agreement is a sign of progress rather than the diplomatic stalemate that occurred in the Thai-Cambodia issue. The agreement marks a good turn at bat for Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.
In addition, another Asean boost came from the private sector as one of the world’s most dynamic low-cost air carriers, AirAsia, has decided to move its headquarters from Malaysia to Jakarta.
On Thursday, group chief executive Tony Fernandes, sais the region’s largest low-cost airline plans to open its base in the capital at South Jakarta’s Equity Building in October. The move was undertaken to change Air Asia’s image from a Malaysian operation to a Southeast Asian airline.
Fernandes said “Asean is based in Jakarta, and Indonesia will be the largest economy in Asean in times to come … And I like it there.”
Another factor is AirAsia plans to take advantage of easy access to the Asean Secretariat in advance of the “open skies” agreement that will go into effect in 2015. That agreement will lower barriers for air travel between the region’s capitals.
Fernandes, who is Malaysian, said he had already bought a home in Jakarta within walking distance of the new office. “I don’t like the Jakarta traffic,” he said.
Another factor that wasn’t stated in the report was that Indonesia provides a market for air traffic that is substantially larger the Malaysian market.
Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency data showed that air traffic in Indonesia grew 22 percent to 53.4 million passengers in 2010 on the back of demand from the middle class for domestic flights. That is higher than the 9 percent average increase recorded by Asia-Pacific carriers, according to data from the International Air Transport Association.
The Indonesia National Air Carriers Association forecasts passenger growth at 10 percent to 15 percent this year.
Watch for more dynamic developments out of Indonesia as the country continues to take its place on the world stage.
Top News from Southeast Asia
July 24 , 2011
These were the most important stories published by Asean Affairs during the week of July 16-July 25.