Enforcing ASEAN Political-Security Community

Political and security issues in the region challenge AMS or ASEAN member states, along with arms race, corruption, the development gap and the impact of it, ethnic clashes and intolerance, human trafficking, human rights abuses, an illicit drug trade, migration, money laundering, social injustice, terrorism, territorial maritime disputes, and other forms of transnational crimes.

Institutionally framed ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) effectively manages these issues through political and security development cooperation among the AMS.  The APSC constitutes one of the three pillars supporting the ASEAN Community together with ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).  The APSC blueprint provides a roadmap and timetable and under it the APSC will be established by 2015.

As inscribed in the ASEAN Charter, the rule of law and good governance, promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, promotes political development based on the principles of democracy.  The APSC will “ensure the people and member states of ASEAN live in peace with one another and with the world at large in a just, democratic and harmonious environment,” according to its blueprint.

“We are not on track. A lot of work still needs to be done,” says Le Luong Minh.  Le Luong Minh is ASEAN’s newly-installed secretary-general, voiced concern over the slow progress toward building an ASEAN Community, including the APSC, by 2015.

The sluggish rate of knots of ratification and program implementation by the AMS is one of the major problems approaching in the development of endowing the ASEAN Community and the APSC.

This slow growth, adding up to the weak political commitment of the AMS, may also be blamed to the insufficient power of the ASEAN Secretariat to coordinate, monitor and “direct” the policies, programs and activities of the ASEAN and the AMS in achieving the APSC.  The ASEAN Secretariat functions like an ASEAN post or liaison office because of its scarce operational budget,

The ASEAN Secretariat has no power to correct and direct the AMS policies, programs and activities from the proposed actions and programs planned in the APSC Blueprint.  Although it is the highest decision making body, ASEAN Summit is just as weak in enforcing and “punishing” the AMS to comply with the rules, principles, and purposes contained in the ASEAN Charter.

Furthermore, the recent divergences affecting the AMS demonstrate that the institutional framework of the APSC is frail in giving solutions to the disputes and upholding peace in the region.  Concrete examples why such an institutional framework is not effective in managing and resolving the problems are: one, the cases of the South China Sea and Cambodia-Thailand territorial disputes, trans-boundary haze pollution and Rohingya human rights issues demonstrate.

“To maintain and enhance peace, security and stability in the region”, as stipulated in Article 1 of the ASEAN Charter, the institutional and legal framework of the APSC should be strengthened. The ASEAN Charter should be reviewed to give more power to the ASEAN secretary-general to act not only as a liaison officer, but also as a coordinating “minister” for ASEAN Community and foreign affairs. He or she and the ASEAN Secretariat would function as a policy-coordinating and policy-making body. However, this Secretariat may also propose new policies or revisions to the ASEAN Summit for approval.

The secretary-general may also act as an intermediary to settle the conflicts and disputes among the AMS as he is a “foreign minister” of the ASEAN.  For example, he should have done “shuttle diplomacy” to resolve the conflicts in the case of the ASEAN’s failure and disunity in making a joint communiqué on the South China Sea dispute at the Phnom Penh Summit last year.

ASEAN cannot depend on an AMS foreign minister to get-up-and-go for acting on such preventive diplomacy.  The secretary-general should be empowered to do the job if such an event like if the Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa or other qualified high officials from the AMS were not willing to take the initiative to settle the difference or other forms of conflicting interests

Improve good governance and the rule of law and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, the political and legal cooperation under the APSC blueprint should be designed and directed to “integrate” the political and legal systems of the AMS to reinforce democracy.  ASEAN should adopt strong conventions on anticorruption and good governance, maritime disputes, environmental protection, human trafficking, illicit drug trade, extradition and mutual legal assistance, money laundering and other forms of transnational crimes to be able to achieve this purpose.

To enforce these conventions, ASEAN must have a court that has the power to adjudicate disputes among the AMS and punish (transnational) crimes committed in ASEAN’s jurisdiction. Therefore, to make this court work effectively, the AMS should carefully and clearly redefine and reinterpret the scope and definitions of “sovereignty”, “non-interference”, and “territorial integrity” principles stipulated in the ASEAN Charter.