Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – South-east Asian foreign ministers faced a full
agenda of conflicts Tuesday from Islamic extremism and South China
Sea disputes to the boat people crisis.
The ministers of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
were also seeking to deepen integration within the 10-country bloc as
it moves toward becoming a single market economy later in the year,
Malaysia Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said integration should respect
the diversity of cultures of the more than 600 million people in the
“ASEAN is stronger for being open to differing perspectives of our
people and for respecting so many different cultural and theological
ideologies,” he said at the start of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.
“Our ASEAN history is built upon the twin pillars of dialogue and
diplomacy,” Anifah said. “Out of the disparate world views of our
founding nations, came the spark of unity.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak hailed ASEAN’s diplomatic
actions in “dealing swiftly with the recent crisis of irregular
migration in South-East Asia” when thousands of starving Bangladeshi
and Myanmar Rohingya migrants were stranded in rickety boats in the
While the initial reaction of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia
and Indonesia was to drive away the refugees, they eventually reached
an agreement to accommodate the boat people.
“This was a considerable test for ASEAN, but all parties concerned
managed to handle it in a timely and effective manner,” he said.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.