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Asean ministers seek stronger security links



Source: TheStraitsTimes
Date: January 08, 2004

A meeting this week will consider ways to boost the regional offensive against terrorism and transnational crime BANGKOK - Terrorism and money laundering will be the main topics of discussion at a meeting of Asean ministers this week, the secretary-general of Thailand's National Security Council, General Winai Phattiyakul, said yesterday.
The meeting, the fourth in an annual series, may also consider the adoption of an Asean security community, first proposed by Indonesia last June.
A joint communique was being prepared by senior officials for Asean ministers to consider, said Asean deputy secretary-general Wilfrido Villacorta.

The meeting would also consider the progress of an ongoing Asean action plan to combat transnational crimes in the areas of drug trafficking, people trafficking, sea piracy, arms smuggling, international economic crime and cyber crime, he said.

The proposed security community would include centres for combating terrorism, training in peacekeeping, a centre for cooperation in non-conventional issues and regular Asean police and defence ministers' meetings.

'This security community, it is hoped, would strengthen national and regional capacity to counter terrorism, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and transnational crime,' Mr Villacorta told reporters.

He said the ministers would consider endorsing a work programme to boost an Asean action plan to combat transnational crime and recognise the need for more effective legal cooperation.

The Asean 'plus three' ministers are, meanwhile, likely to welcome regional cooperation on transnational crime.

The meeting marks the first time that ministers from China, Japan and South Korea will join their Asean counterparts for the talks.

'Transnational crime problems are not limited to Asean countries but are facing countries across the world due to high technology and ease of travelling,' Thai Justice Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said in a recent statement.

'Money transferrals, international trade, travelling from country to country are much easier, so criminals are also travelling.'

The fourth annual meeting would push for more cooperation in criminal law prosecutions among the participating countries, he said.

Asean, formed in 1967, groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The meeting has gained significance since a recent series of coordinated attacks by suspected Islamic insurgents in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south, including a deadly raid on an armoury and the burning of 21 schools on Sunday and two bomb attacks on Monday.

Gen Winai said Thailand wanted the meeting to call for stricter law enforcement to help fight international crime.

'We want better enforcement as well as better laws and closer cooperation at the regional level. This time, terrorism and money laundering will be the main topics,' he told reporters.

Thailand also plans to discuss possible changes in Malaysia's dual nationality policy which, it says, has facilitated attackers' escapes along the border, which is already porous.

Gen Winai said that barring 'some small weaknesses', Thai intelligence was 'still effective with full international cooperation still going on'. He did not elaborate..

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