Jakarta, Indonesia - As the spotlight will be on Brunei Darussalam when it takes over the Asean Chairmanship next year, an expert said the country is intensifying its efforts to overcome the unexpected in handling not only the current South China Sea row but also focus on other issues surrounding the 10-member association including the strengthening of the finance sector in the region.
At the sidelines of a seminar on peace and stability for South China Sea featuring over 15 experts yesterday, one of the panellists, Kavi Chongkittavorn, Senior Fellow at Thailand's Institute of Strategic and International Studies, told reporters that Brunei will play an important role not just due to the fact it is one of the claimant countries but is also seen as a core nation that always represents the best interest of Asean and supportive of its initiatives.
Although the outcome is largely unpredictable, after a meeting of Asean senior officials in Phnom Penh recently, he said sources told him Brunei wants to make sure that it will avoid the recurrence of the July 2012 Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh that failed to issue a joint communique, a first for Asean.
As the chair for next year, he said Brunei's brinkmanship would be put to test but added that Brunei will not act like other countries. "Brunei will be a responsible chair and make sure that Asean will reach consensus on all issues. Although small, Brunei will give its utmost support and it has a reputation of having strong unity and centrality, so I foresee a good year ahead," he added.
He added the issues will not only comprise the South China Sea row, but one crucial element is the review of the Asean Charter which will mark its fifth anniversary next year. Other areas he mentioned would be focus on the preparedness of the financial sector in the region to handle crisis and also youth cooperation, which he said Brunei is very keen on promoting.
Challenges currently faced by the Asean Secretariat are also likely to be brought up in the Asean meeting next year, he said. Asean Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan recently came up with a report where they saw a need to increase the capacity of the secretariat as it is handling more meetings and issues annually.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin