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ASEAN readies to boost fight against transnational crime

A Laotian soldier stands outside the venue of the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos, on 6 September 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

The first­-ever regional centre set up to fight transnational crime in ASEAN and share information could be up and running by next year.

Suriya Jindawong, deputy director-­general of the Thai Foreign Ministry’s department of ASEAN affairs, said an anti­transnational crime centre will support information-­sharing to prevent several kinds of cross­-border threats.

“In order to have inclusive regional connectivity, we have to improve our safeguard system to prevent illegal trade and transnational smuggling,” Suriya told a press briefing at the Thai ministry on Saturday.

The plan, being pushed by Thailand, the United States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), aims to enlarge information-sharing among the 26 member countries of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the European Union (EU). ARF is a forum on security dialogue in Asia.

If the centre is approved at a workshop on the Concept Development of the ARF Transnational Threats Information­sharing Centre (ATTIC) held on Monday and Tuesday in Bangkok, it would take at least another year for it to be active and two more years to draft a framework, Suriya said.

At present, 19 countries including all 10 ASEAN member states, the United States and China have confirmed their participation in the regional expert meeting with the ministry, Suriya said. However, the foreign representatives have yet to finalise a location for the centre, a point that will be discussed during the two­-day brainstorming event, he said.

According to the deputy director­general, there are 10 priority areas concerning transnational threats, including terrorism, narcotics, human trafficking, arms smuggling, maritime piracy, and timber and people smuggling.

“There are people who are taking advantage of the improved connectivity of the ASEAN Community,” he noted.

While China, Japan, North and South Korea, the US and Russia often have political conflicts among themselves, Suriya made it clear that the dialogue will not be used to point fingers at each country’s opponents.

“This is a stage where we want to address our common threats, not to stir any conflict,” he said, adding that political issues will not affect the regional dialogue and will be based on mutual trust.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here