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 10 Apr 2008

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Asean in danger of going irrelevant: Singapore PM

Political situations in Thailand and Malaysia are taking the focus away from Asean so the regional bloc must strive harder to remain relevant, AFP quoted Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as saying Tuesday.

"Some of the (Asean) countries are very preoccupied with urgent domestic priorities," he told top corporate leaders attending the Forbes Global CEO conference in the city-state.

Lee cited the latest news Tuesday in which the Thai Constitutional Court stripped Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej of his post for taking payments for hosting TV cooking shows.

In Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is facing a strong challenge from resurgent opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is campaigning to wrest power from the ruling coalition.

The situations facing the two countries are taking "a lot of energy and focus" from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Lee said.

"We have to acknowledge that this is the status... All it means is that Asean will have to work harder in order to make itself a slightly bigger blip on the radar scope of investors because
otherwise we will just get ignored and we will lose out," he said.

Thailand and Malaysia are key members of Asean, which also covers Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

The grouping, with a combined population of over 550 million people, has been taking steps to link its 10 diverse economies more closely through a web of free trade agreements and economic

It aims to become a single market and manufacturing base by 2015 so that it can compete better with the economies of giant neighbours China and India.



















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