Asean member states must remain vigilant and reaffirm their commitment to the tradition of peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said this was because peaceful resolution was the bedrock of Asean, as embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).
“Even when it may seem expedient to use force, Asean member states have taken the labourious path to peace and upholding the TAC.
“We must remain vigilant and reaffirm our commitment to this,” he said in his keynote address at the three-day 25th Asia-Pacific Roundtable here yesterday.
Muhyiddin said if member states did not take TAC seriously, they should not expect other signatories to do so.
“We have a moral duty to lead by example and, thereby, binding signatories such as China, India, the European Union, Japan and the United States to their pledges on the non-use of force in the settlement of disputes.”
Muhyiddin noted the past few months had been rather challenging for Asean, pointing out tensions in the Cambodian-Thai border, which have caused a great deal of concern in the region. However, he was heartened to note that despite initial hiccups, both parties had agreed to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
“In seven hours, Cambodian and Thai advocates will begin to argue their cases in The Hague. I applaud Bangkok and Phnom Penh for their commitment to resolve the dispute peacefully.”
Muhyiddin was also confident that Asean’s role at the centre of regional cooperation would continue to grow with importance, especially as the world’s strategic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia.
He said in 2015, Asean would mark another milestone with the continued growth of intra-regional trade as well as the construction of the Asean highway network and Singapore-Kunming rail link under the Asean Connectivity Master Plan.
He was also delighted that this year marked the 20th anniversary of Asean’s dialogue relations with China, where the ties had grown significantly as the region reaped the benefits of China’s phenomenal economic growth.
However, China’s rapid development has caused a certain degree of unease for some quarters but Muhyiddin said instead of speculat- ing on Beijing’s designs and intentions in the region, it would be better to recognise the strategic adjustments that had been made to accommodate China’s re-emergence as a major power.
He said for the good part of the new millennium, China had walked the talk of “peaceful development” and extended its hand in friendship to Southeast Asia and was warmly reciprocated by Asean members.
Present at the roundtable organised by the Asean-Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Asean-Isis) were Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Isis chair Tan Sri Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, Asean secretary-general Dr Surin Pitsuwan and Asean-Isis chair Dang Dinh Quy.