Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – Malaysia’s prime minister urged the Association
of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deepen regional integration to
be able to respond quickly to regional conflicts Tuesday.
Najib Razak hailed the recent 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 seas.
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 at
the start of the meetings of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Kuala
Najib said the greater challenge that ASEAN would face was the need
to deepen its integration as it moves toward becoming a single market
later in the year.
“Our 10-member states are at different stages (of development) – and
narrowing these gaps is not optional,” he said. “It is essential if
we are to build a truly integrated ASEAN, which is why inclusiveness
and sustainability must be at the heart of our policies going
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia,
the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.