The 5th ASEAN and Asia Forum was held on 2nd August 2012 at Fullerton Hotel. The key theme for the forum was “Connecting the Region: Overcoming Challenges, Seizing Opportunities”. The panels for the forum include ASEAN Connectivity, ASEAN in the context of Asia, ASEAN and the United States, ASEAN Business Prospects, Engaging Myanmar, and Asia and the World.
South China Sea issue will test ASEAN
In the opening keynote address by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, it was noted that the disagreements over the South China Sea will continue to test ASEAN’s ability to forge consensus on difficult and sensitive political issues.
ESM Goh’s comments were made after ASEAN foreign ministers failed to issue a joint communique at the recently concluded ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM) due to disagreements over the South China Sea.
“Whether we like it or not, after the 45th AMM, the South China Sea will remain a test of ASEAN’s ability to forge consensus on difficult problems and act in the region’s broader interests”.
Mr. Goh said ASEAN’s economic integration cannot be insulated from its ability to maintain unity on important issues and stability in the region.
He also added that ASEAN’s dialogue partners and investors are watching and re-calculating their interests.
“We cannot blame them for this. It is therefore imperative that we address their concerns and demonstrate that we’re capable of reaching consensus on even the most sensitive of issues.”
Analysts agreed with Mr. Goh’s view. Pushpanathan Sundram, SIIA Senior Fellow said: “Investments comes into the region because the region is stable, the region is peaceful, the region is growing, and the region is an engine for growth.”
“So if this doesn’t come through the way we handle the South China Sea issue, then the long term, I think this will impact on investors.
Report: South China Sea disagreements will test ASEAN: ESM Goh (Channel NewsAsia, 2 August 2012)
Report: A ‘test case of ASEAN’s ability to forge consensus’ (TODAYonline, 3 August 2012)
Myanmar reforms will remain
Despite the political and economic reforms taking place in Myanmar, skepticism remains over whether the government would return to its rogue ways.
However, panelists at the 5th AAF were unanimous and agreed that the reforms were here to stay. The panelists were optimistic that while the reforms were a work in progress, they would be sustainable in the long term. They also said that foreign investors interested in Myanmar’s rich natural resources and frontier market potential will continue to provide economic incentives.
These reforms might have fostered warmer ties between Myanmar and the West, however, human rights issues still remains, and Myanmar lacks the financial and credit infrastructures needed to sustain the reforms.
The panelists reiterated that these various issues need to be addressed with full external support to ensure that the reforms do not lose momentum.
Report: Myanmar reforms here to stay, says ASEAN forum (TODAYonline, 3 August 2012)
Other news coverage and Telecast
The 5th ASEAN and Asia Forum was also covered by my paper, Central News Agency (Taiwan), Bernama (Malaysia), The Straits Times and New Asia Republic.
Highlights of the 5th ASEAN and Asia Forum will be telecast on Channel NewsAsia on Monday 13 August @ 9.30 pm
You can also catch the encore telecast on 14 August @ 10.30 am, 15 August @ 3.30 pm and 16 August @ 5.30 pm