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ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Cooperation adds more countries

China is the first major country from outside of ASEAN to accede to the treaty in 2003…reports Asian Lite News

Six more countries signed the instrument of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) here on Wednesday, bringing the number of state parties to the treaty of ASEAN to 49.

Representatives from Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates inked the instrument of accession to the treaty on the sidelines of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (55th AMM) in Phnom Penh in the presence of ASEAN foreign ministers, Xinhua news agency reported.

Speaking at the event, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who is the chair of the 55th AMM, said Cambodia was honoured to host the signing ceremony, where six more countries acceded to the TAC at the same time.

To date, 49 countries have joined the TAC, he said.

“Such remarkably high number of parties attests to the reconnection of the importance of the TAC in terms of its fundamental objectives and principles of promoting friendly multilateral cooperation and peaceful co-existence,” Sokhonn said.

“I wish to take this opportunity to encourage all acceding parties to make their utmost efforts to deepen their friendly ties and mutually beneficial cooperation with ASEAN as an organization as well as with each individual ASEAN member state,” he added.

The TAC is a peace treaty signed in 1976 among ASEAN member states to establish a set of guidelines to govern inter-state relations in the region, promote perpetual peace, everlasting amity and cooperation based on mutual respect, non-interference principle and peaceful settlement of disputes.

China is the first major country from outside of ASEAN to accede to the treaty in 2003.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

ALSO READ-16th ASEAN defence ministers’ meeting begins

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6 more countries sign TAC pact

The TAC is a peace treaty signed in 1976 among ASEAN member states to establish a set of guidelines to govern inter-state relations in the region…reports Asian Lite News

Six more countries signed the instrument of accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) here on Wednesday, bringing the number of state parties to the treaty of ASEAN to 49.

Representatives from Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates inked the instrument of accession to the treaty on the sidelines of the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (55th AMM) in Phnom Penh in the presence of ASEAN foreign ministers, Xinhua news agency reported.

Speaking at the event, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who is the chair of the 55th AMM, said Cambodia was honoured to host the signing ceremony, where six more countries acceded to the TAC at the same time.

To date, 49 countries have joined the TAC, he said.

“Such remarkably high number of parties attests to the reconnection of the importance of the TAC in terms of its fundamental objectives and principles of promoting friendly multilateral cooperation and peaceful co-existence,” Sokhonn said.

“I wish to take this opportunity to encourage all acceding parties to make their utmost efforts to deepen their friendly ties and mutually beneficial cooperation with ASEAN as an organization as well as with each individual ASEAN member state,” he added.

The TAC is a peace treaty signed in 1976 among ASEAN member states to establish a set of guidelines to govern inter-state relations in the region, promote perpetual peace, everlasting amity and cooperation based on mutual respect, non-interference principle and peaceful settlement of disputes.

China is the first major country from outside of ASEAN to accede to the treaty in 2003.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

ALSO READ: Thailand an important Indian ally in ASEAN: Ranjan Singh

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Yahoo, PayPal blocked in Indonesia

Some 200 foreign ESPs in the Southeast Asian country, including Google, Zoom, Netflix and Facebook, had rushed to register in days leading to the deadline on Friday…reports Asian Lite News

The Indonesian government has blocked the access to eight major online platforms, including Yahoo, PayPal and Dota, as they have failed to register for licensing, an official said.

Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, Director General of Informatics Application at the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, said on Saturday in a written statement that five others blocked are Steam, Counter-Strike, Epic Games, Origin.com and Xandr.com.

Pangerapan added that a licensing registration was required for all of the electronic service providers (ESPs) under a policy issued in 2020, Xinhua news agency reported.

Some 200 foreign ESPs in the Southeast Asian country, including Google, Zoom, Netflix and Facebook, had rushed to register in days leading to the deadline on Friday. Nearly 8,000 domestic private ESPs also had registered with the Ministry before the deadline.

ALSO READ: Indonesia threatens to block social media giants

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Indonesia threatens to block social media giants

The digital giants are given time until Wednesday to complete the registration for licensing….reports Asian Lite News

The Indonesian authorities are set to block social media applications and online sites including Google, Facebook, and WhatsApp in several days if they fail to register with the country’s Ministry of Communications and Informatics.

The digital giants are given time until Wednesday to complete the registration for licensing. Otherwise, the ministry will name them illegal and unlawful in the country, Xinhua news agency reported.

“We have warned all local and foreign tech companies, including online services, sites, and application providers, many times that they have to register if they do not want to risk being blocked. We have given them time since six months ago,” the ministry’s Director General for Information Applications Semuel Abrijani told reporters on Tuesday.

The registration is part of the country’s new regulation starting from January 2022, saying all tech platforms must secure licenses to be able to operate. The regulation will allow the authorities to order the platforms to take down any contents considered unlawful, inappropriate and “disturb public order,” within four hours if deemed urgent, and 24 hours if not.

The Indonesian government is currently trying to reduce the spreading of misinformation and hoaxes, particularly ahead of the country’s general election in 2024.

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Myanmar ramps up surveillance with Chinese biometric cameras

The reports says that authorities have begun implementing surveillance camera projects for at least five key cities…reports Asian Lite News

Myanmar’s junta government is working on deploying Chinese-built bio metric surveillance systems in key cities.

According to Reuters report, the govt is installing the facial recognition capable cameras in more cities in the name of preserving civil peace and maintaining security.

Citing multiple sources, Reuters reported that authorities have began implementing surveillance camera projects for at least five key cities including country’s fourth-largest city since the February coup.

SECURITY CAMERA

The report further states that the plans are not new, and mentioned projects are in addition to five cities where camera systems touted as crime prevention measures were either installed or planned by the previous government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The report pointed out that local firms, who won the tenders source the cameras and technology from Chinese surveillance giants Zhejiang Dahua Technology, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Hikvision.

The authorities did not responded to the queries related to the projects.

Earlier, Myanmar’s military has sought Beijing’s assistance and probably received also to build an internet firewall to curb the spread of information against the junta. But Tatmadaw is currently unaware that Chinese agencies by helping them have potential access to the junta’s sensitive information, a media report said.

Myanmar’s junta is currently superior in terms of firepower and arms when compared to the rising groups against it in the country following the February coup. But Tatmadaw is still behind in technological and digital advancement, therefore its atrocities against civilians are spread in minutes worldwide through the internet and social media platforms.

But now Tatmadaw has planned to widen its curbs on the digital platforms and therefore it has turned towards China, seeking Beijing’s help to build an internet firewall to prevent such damning text, images and videos from reaching both global and local online audiences.

China’s role is being watched closely in helping Myanmar’s military regime develop its online blocking and snooping capabilities since the February 1 coup, according to Asian security officials who communicated with Asia Times.

The cooperative effort, they say, aims to implement effective control over what can and cannot be accessed online in Myanmar, similar to the “Great Firewall of China” that Beijing has used for years to repressive effect to police the online activities of dissidents and ferret out anonymous and pseudonymous critics, said Asia Times.

However the concerning facts are emerging, which Tatmadaw is unable to figure out, is that Chinese agencies which are helping the junta are simultaneously able to tap into the Tatmadaw’s military computers and potentially access and collect sensitive information in the construction process, experts monitoring the situation say.

China, they say, has plenty of incentive to tap into the Tatmadaw information streams after vacillating hot and cold relations and years of mutual suspicion on a range of sensitive security issues, according to Asia Times. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Beijing Fuels Crisis in East & South China Seas

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Myanmar’s Suu Kyi moved solitary confinement: Report

Suu Kyi is likely to attend trial hearings from a special court set up inside the prison, said the sources….reports Asian Lite News

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former de facto leader who was ousted during the February 2021 military coup, has been sent to solitary confinement at a prison in capital Nay Pyi Taw, the media reported on Friday.

The 77-year-old Nobel laureate had been held at an undisclosed location in the capital since she was arrested when the military overthrew her elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government on February 1, 2021, reports the BBC.

Also the former State Councillor, Suu Kyi faces a total of 11 charges, such as violating the Official Secrets Act, incitement, corruption and breaching Covid rules. But she has denied them all.

On Thursday, informed sources told the BBC that she had been moved to the separate, specially-built accommodation inside the jail a day earlier, where deposed President Win Myint is also being held in solitary confinement.

Suu Kyi is likely to attend trial hearings from a special court set up inside the prison, said the sources.

They added that the former leader has been assigned three female staffers in the jail and is in good health.

The incumbent Min Aung Hlaing-led military government of Myanmar has confirmed the development, saying that was in accordance with criminal laws in the country, reports the BBC.

If convicted of all the charges, Suu Kyi could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

The 2021 coup was staged after the military alleged massive voting fraud in the November 2020 general elections, which saw the NLD win a majority of seats in both houses of Parliament.

The coup triggered widespread demonstrations and Myanmar’s military has cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, activists and journalists, according to rights groups.

Suu Kyi is one of more than 14,000 people to have been arrested by the junta since February, and at least 2,000 others killed in the demonstrations, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

ALSO READ: ‘Crisis deepens in Myanmar’

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16th ASEAN defence ministers’ meeting begins

Speaking in his opening speech, Banh said it was the first in-person meeting in over two years following the Covid-19 pandemic…reports Asian Lite News

The 16th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) kicked off here on Wednesday, with discussions focusing on key challenges and security in the region.

Chaired by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh, the meeting brought together defence ministers or representatives from all ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, Xinhua news agency reported.

Speaking in his opening speech, Banh said it was the first in-person meeting in over two years following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our presence today underlines our commitment with high responsibilities to maintain ASEAN’s centrality, unity and cooperation for peace and security in the region,” he said.

He said the meeting is convened at a time when the whole region is facing pressures arising from cross-border crime, terrorism, climate change, disasters and pandemics, among others.

“Our joint commitment (to address these issues) will lead our region towards sustainable peace, security and prosperity,” he added.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

ALSO READ: India hosts key meeting of ASEAN FMs

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‘Crisis deepens in Myanmar’

The special envoy also noted that challenges in the country have “both deepened and expanded” dramatically…reports Asian Lite News

The political crisis unleashed in Myanmar following the February 1 military coup last year, has “opened new frontlines that had long been at peace,” according to UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer.

He told the General Assembly on Monday, that since she took up the job six months ago, Myanmar has “continued to descend into profound and widespread conflict”.

The special envoy also noted that challenges in the country have “both deepened and expanded” dramatically, the UN News reported.

Already one of the world’s largest refugee emergencies, she reminded the world that multidimensional crises there have left over one million internally displaced people across the country with “serious regional and international ramifications”.

Nearly one million mainly Muslim Rohingyas live in refugees camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and hundreds of thousands of others are scattered across the region.

And over the past five years, the number of people living in poverty has doubled to encompass half the population. “Today, 14.4 million people, or one-quarter of the entire population of Myanmar urgently require humanitarian assistance,” said the special envoy.

Meanwhile, school enrolment has dropped by up to 80 per cent in two years, leaving at least 7.8 million children shut out of the classroom.

“A generation that benefitted from the democratic transition is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and, tragically, many feel they have no choice left but to take up arms,” she warned.

As military violence and distrust have continued to deepen, armed conflict “has become the norm” for all citizens.

“The military continues its disproportionate use of force, has intensified its attack on civilians and increased operations against resistance forces, using aerial bombings,” said the senior UN official. “Civilian buildings and villages have been destroyed by fire and internally displaced populations have been attacked”.

Furthermore, there are reports of up to 600 armed resistance groups, or “people’s defence forces” engaged in fighting, with some conducting assassinations targeting those seen as “pro-military”.

“I will continue to play a bridging role…in Myanmar, in the region, and the international community to address the protection needs and suffering of the most vulnerable, and to support the will of the people for a future federal democratic union based on peace, stability and shared prosperity,” Heyzer said.

ALSO READ: US slams Myanmar’s plan to execute pro-democracy leaders

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ASEAN Regional Forum discusses terrorism, maritime and cybersecurity

Secretary (East) appreciated the role of ASEAN-led architecture particularly the ARF in advancing peace, security, and cooperation in the region….reports Asian Lite News

ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in a virtual meeting on Thursday discussed terrorism, maritime and cyber security.

Secretary (East), Saurabh Kumar participated in the meeting (ARF SOM) virtually. The meeting was attended by senior officials of the ARF member states and chaired by Cambodia as the Chairperson of ASEAN.

“The meeting reviewed activities and exchanges of the 27 member ARF over the past year and deliberated on its future plans and activities. Senior Officials exchanged views on regional and international developments, and on COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism, maritime and cyber security,” said a statement.

Secretary (East) appreciated the role of ASEAN-led architecture particularly the ARF in advancing peace, security, and cooperation in the region.

Recognizing the evolving traditional and non-traditional threats in the maritime domain, he emphasised the convergence between the ASEAN Outlook for the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) and Indo-Pacific policies announced by several ARF countries. He also shared our perspectives on the threat posed by terrorism and the challenges of cyber security.

In the current inter-sessional year, Australia, India and Indonesia co-chaired an ARF workshop on “Law of the Sea and Fisheries” on 7-8 December 2021. India, the US, and Indonesia co-chaired the 13th ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security on 12 May 2022. India seeks to continue to contribute to ARF activities and processes in the next inter-sessional year.

India will host the Special ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (SAIFMM) on June 16 and 17 to mark the 30th anniversary of dialogue relations and the 10th anniversary of Strategic Partnership, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Vivian Balakrishnan, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Singapore, India’s Country Coordinator, will co-chair the meeting. Foreign Ministers of other ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretary General will participate in the SAIFMM.

The year 2022 has been designated as ASEAN-India Friendship Year.

ASEAN-India dialogue relations started with the establishment of sectoral partnership in 1992 which graduated to full dialogue partnership in December 1995, Summit level Partnership in 2002, and Strategic partnership in 2012, the MEA pointed out.

“Today, ASEAN-India Strategic Partnership stands on a strong foundation. ASEAN is central to India’s Act East Policy and its vision for the wider Indo-Pacific,” the MEA said.

This multi-faceted partnership encompasses many sectoral dialogue mechanisms and working groups that meet regularly at various levels and include annual Summit, Ministerial and Senior Officials’ meetings. The ongoing India-ASEAN collaboration is guided by the Plan of Action 2021-2025 which was adopted in 2020, the MEA added.

According to the MEA, while ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM), hosted by ASEAN Chair, is an annual event, the SAIFMM would be the first ASEAN-India FMM to be hosted by India in New Delhi. The SAIFMM will be preceded by 24th ASEAN-India Senior Officials Meeting on June 15.

The SAIFMM will be accompanied by the 12th edition of Delhi Dialogue, a premier Tack 1.5 Dialogue in the ASEAN-India calendar, which will be hosted by India on June 16-17. The theme of DD-XII is Building Bridges in the Indo-Pacific. The Ministerial Session of DD-XII will be attended by EAM Jaishankar and the ASEAN Ministers, the MEA said.

ALSO READ: Rajnath: India’s maritime security demands have shifted

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India’s Myanmar dilemma

Just as India extended development assistance to Myanmar some years ago for the construction of houses in the Rakhine state, India could look at extending assistance to meet the immediate humanitarian crisis…reports Asian Lite News

India has taken a measured stance on the situation in Myanmar since the military took over power in February 2021. This stance is necessitated by the need to keep in mind the China factor in ties with Myanmar and continue to keep that nation at the centre of its Act East policy.

These considerations remain paramount even today. India needs to step up humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, where over 9 million people remain internally displaced. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently hosted a meeting attended by high level representatives from the region, Myanmar, UN specialised agencies and other international organisations to discuss the humanitarian situation. The May 6 meeting held in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh aimed to revive the five-point consensus reached by ASEAN in April 2021, one part of which dealt with the provision of humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar. The issue is: Can India take a lead in this direction?

According to the UN Refugee Agency, some 9,24,800 people remain displaced across Myanmar as of April 25, including 5,78,200 people who have fled their homes as a result of conflict and insecurity since the military takeover.

A demonstrator stacks bags on a street as a barricade during a demonstration against the military coup and the detention of civilian leaders in Myanmar(ians)

Consequently, humanitarian access to conflict-affected and displaced people remains restricted and significant gaps remain in assistance to these communities despite continued efforts by humanitarian partners and local organisations. In the Chin state alone, for example, nearly one-fifth of the population have fled their homes. Estimate indicates that more than 50,000 people are currently internally displaced across the nine townships of Chin State, while at least 40,000 may have crossed the border to become refugees in Mizoram.

India realises that refugees will continue to come as long as there is instability in Myanmar. The humanitarian agencies and institutional donors must find further ways to directly provide funds and resources to local groups doing this important work. Perhaps the leaf can be taken out of the Afghanistan example, where organisations like the World Food Programme and other UN organisations are distributing aid directly to the people of Myanmar. Recall that India’s vaccine diplomacy was also conducted through the good offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, the need of the hour in this regard is actually bilateral cooperation. Remember that India had provided vaccine doses to the people of Myanmar and earlier, had provided education, healthcare and infrastructure development assistance. This indicates that the present Myanmar government is not averse to seeking India’s assistance when needed.

The best illustration of this is the gift of one million vaccine doses by former Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla when he visited Myanmar in end-December 2021. During the visit, he also held substantive discussions with military leader General Min Aung Hlaing. This has to be capitalised on. Just as India extended development assistance to Myanmar some years ago for the construction of houses in the Rakhine state, India could look at extending assistance to meet the immediate humanitarian crisis. Specifics can always be worked out diplomatically. The major benefit of such an understanding will be that India will be seen as having reached out to the people of Myanmar. Challenges however will remain for both countries in practical terms. These are not insurmountable and should be creatively handled. While the direct route of connecting with the people through Naypyidaw is always there, India could also going the Japan route, which has challenged aid and assistance, in cooperation with international organisations and the ASEAN Secretariat, taking into account the local situation and humanitarian needs and urgency.

A Myanmar police officer

India is best placed geographically and has the diplomatic advantage of being able to reach out to the military government. Therefore, one option would be for donor governments and international agencies to immediately offer their help to India, and to the local groups trying to reach local communities in Myanmar. The only catch here will be for India to be willing and able to undertake such an initiative. Past experience shows that India has the capacity to engage with Myanmar to provide aid and assistance. A similar story has unfolded in Sri Lanka where India became the first responder to the island nation’s call for assistance with fuel and medicines. The narrative of support is positive and provides reassurance that India is willing to take the first step to help.

Addressing this issue will require deft diplomatic strategies entailing both direct and indirect connects to the government, NGOs and others in Myanmar. What is immediately needed is raising awareness of the problem and giving solutions, both bilateral and regional. At some stage, consensus will have to be reached on the way forward. There is much to be learnt from the experience of bilateral cooperation. Engagement with the military government as well as others concerned about the well-being of the people of Myanmar is the first step. For this, an invitation could be sent for Myanmar’s Foreign Secretary to visit India at an opportune time to discuss matters. The long-term view is ready, what is needed is action on the ground.

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