Saturday, 07 May 2011
Indonesia called on the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to focus on the soaring food and energy prices that could push people in the region into poverty.
This is while the group is facing the feud between Cambodia and Thailand’s border conflict and Myanmar’s reported rights abuses.
This year’s ASEAN chairman, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said at the start of the 18th summit, “We must give serious attention and take concrete measures to address the soaring of food prices and world energy, which in turn will negatively affect the prosperity of our people.” He said the key is in averting poverty especially because “decreasing the poverty level is not an easy task.”
ASEAN is composed by disparate nations Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Besides inflation, human trafficking, territorial disputes and East Timor’s membership bid is expected to be discussed by the ten leaders including President Benigno Aquino III who arrived in Thailand Friday night.
Another issue is military-led Myanmar’s scheduled chairmanship in 2014 and its request to sponsor the summit in 2016.
Human rights and other international groups have been asking the ASEAN to reject the request because of Myanmar being a “pariah state in the democratic world and serial rights abuser” as mentioned in Inquirer.net.
In another report, the European Union mentioned plans of engaging in free trade agreements with ASEAN members, except Myanmar.
The tension between Thailand and Cambodia is also mounting with 18 dead and 85,000 people displaced in the past few months. The dispute began in 2008 wherein according to the United Nations, Thai soldiers moved into an area 300 meters from the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple. Thailand claimed that the demarcation has not been completed in the said parts which were supposedly judged by the International Court of Justice as Cambodian territory. Both countries accused each other of trying to seize ancient temples.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked for a ceasefire with the ASEAN as mediator. Both countries had agreed to accept Indonesian observers into the disputed area. However, Indonesia said they would have no power to police a ceasefire.