BANGKOK: Enforcement, justice, economic and diplomatic leaders from Southeast Asia have gathered at the United Nations in Bangkok to discuss regional integration and crime challenges, as well as improvements to border management to help secure the region.
Arranged by the Thai government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the conference will consider and recommend ways to ensure Asean community security as the region evolves and becomes more interconnected and integrated.
To support consolidation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations one of the world’s largest economic communities and trading blocs, countries of the region are currently carrying out major upgrades in air, road, rail and port infrastructure, as well as initiatives to ease border controls to increase cross-border movements of labor, capital and goods. These efforts are creating new economic and development opportunities, but at the same time they are highlighting differences and disparities between countries abilities to address transnational organized crime and related security challenges.
Worryingly, 2016 data presented by UNODC points to the fact that organized crime and terrorism challenges are continuing to expand and diversify in the Asean region, particularly where there are governance and capacity limitations.
This is the third year Thailand has partnered with UNODC to lead these regional discussions, part of an effort to support the commitment to border management in the Asean 2025: Forging Ahead Together strategy. Border management has also been identified as one of nine issues under the Asean Political-Security Community to be urgently addressed, and UNODC is leading UN efforts in the region in support of the Asean–UN Plan of Action signed in 2016 by Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh and then UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
“A key objective of the conference is to build momentum for improving regional border management to mitigate transnational crime and terrorism threats which are expanding and evolving as the region integrates,” said UNODC Deputy Executive Director Aldo Lale Demoz.
“Results of discussions here today will be channeled into relevant Asean decision making bodies, particularly the next Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime [SOMTC] in Laos in a few weeks. Our regional office will also take the results into account, and our representative and a team of experts in border management and transnational crime will be at the SOMTC to present the latest data and our regional program which is designed in support of what Asean agrees. This is one of the most important agendas for us in Southeast Asia at the moment,” he added.
Expanding UNODC regional program support for border management is being discussed, along with port control and information units and improvements in the sharing of strategic information and intelligence, and deepening cooperation between enforcement and justice officials of the region.
“This event should provide momentum for integrated enforcement and justice strategies and programs that address a variety of transnational crime and security challenges. A good example is our network of border liaison offices that help countries and agencies communicate and collaborate both within countries and across borders,” Demoz said.