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SIIA Chairman Simon Tay quoted on East Asia Summit [Channel NewsAsia, 13 November, 2011]

Updated On: Nov 15, 2011

Professor Simon Tay was quoted in a Channel NewsAsia story on ASEAN''s progress in a lead-up to the upcoming Bali summit.

ASEAN has progressed well under Indonesia chairmanship: Shanmugam

SINGAPORE: Indonesia caps its chairmanship of ASEAN with the forthcoming Bali summit which will see the formal entry of the United States and Russia into the East Asia summit grouping.

ASEAN will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of its ties with China during the 19th Summit of ASEAN''s leaders and their discussions with dialogue partners from 17-19 November.

The anniversary will be celebrated with the launch of the ASEAN-China Centre to be based in Beijing.

And in an interview with Channel NewsAsia, Singapore''s Foreign Minister Mr K Shanmugam said ASEAN has progressed well under the strong and able leadership of current Chair, Indonesia.

For example, it mediated in the Thai-Cambodian dispute over an area around the ancient Preah Vihear temple.

"In the Thai-Cambodian dispute, Indonesia, as Chair of ASEAN, together with the other ASEAN countries, played a very useful role and the role that Indonesia played was mentioned by the International Court of Justice," said Mr Shanmugam.

"The ICJ both recognised and asked that that role be continued. ASEAN as an entity under the chairmanship of Indonesia has done well this 

Mr Shanmugam went on to say: "Ask yourself this question. Are we better off in Singapore with ASEAN or without ASEAN? We have a set of international rules which governs our conduct as an entity; it provides for a certain modus operandi between the countries; it has allowed all of us to grow together with a set of common values, and together as opposed to be alone in the international scene, together as ASEAN it has given us a much bigger voice.

"For example you have the ASEAN summit coming up, we will have the East Asia Summit as well and for the first time you are having Russia and the United States taking part in the summit.

"Our dialogue partnerships have been strengthened considerably. These have considerable economic benefits...in terms of progressing the community building and making easier people-to-people movement and when ASEAN speaks as a single voice, people do take note."

A key highlight of the ASEAN summit is the East Asian summit, which will see the entry of the United States and Russia into the grouping. US President Barack Obama and a representative of the Russian Federation will be in Bali to further cement their ties with the grouping.

Mr Shanmugam said: "It (East Asia Summit) provides a convenient way for the countries to discuss regional issues, perhaps even international issues, and it helps while maintaining ASEAN''s centrality in the whole process, it gives us a better say in how our future and how regional relationships should be conducted and it is extremely useful. It is each individual country''s dealing with regional issues, this is a good signal to send."

ASEAN''s leaders will brief their dialogue partners about their connectivity masterplan and how they and the private sector can link up the ten-member grouping via infrastructure, technology and also culturally.

These objectives will be further entrenched in the document entitled the "Bali Declaration on ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations", to be signed by ASEAN''s leaders on the first day of their summit on 17 November.

Professor Simon Tay, president of Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said: "I am hoping to see a strong political signal coming out of the Bali summit which tells the bureaucrats that various burdens must come down, various barriers must be dismantled. I also hope to hear companies'' voices, think-tanks, too. But companies, being the main people who will invest and trade across borders, need to take ASEAN more seriously and ASEAN needs to respond to their calls."

On the positive developments in ASEAN member state Myanmar in the past year, Mr Shanmugam said: "One year ago, if you said these things would be happening in Myanmar, many people, particularly those in the West, would have laughed at you.

"I think the signals (from Myanmar) are very positive. The release of the prisoners - not all of them, but a number have been released - and at the same time various other steps have been taken to encourage greater participation in the political process."

But officials say that it is not likely that ASEAN''s leaders would discuss Myanmar''s bid for the grouping''s chairmanship in 2014 at the Bali summit.

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