GOOD RECORD: 'Mindanao peace shows Putrajaya's ability'
KUCHING: ASEAN member countries are looking forward to Malaysia's turn to chair the organisation in 2015, said a senior research fellow on political and security affairs.
Dr Termsak Chalermpalanupap added that with Malaysia's stable government and good human rights record, in three years' time it would be a historical moment for Asean.
"Asean needs strong and experienced leadership to propel itself further in the region and Malaysia has all the criteria, which was clearly shown in the way they handled the Mindanao treaty," said Termsak when presenting his paper "Re-Inventing Asean" at the Asean Lecture Series here yesterday.
"Member countries are given the opportunity to lead as agreed in the charter. But the organisation still needs a strong helm.
"Member countries are looking forward to have Malaysia back in the chair."
Termsak, a Thai who recently retired from the Asean secretariat in Jakarta after 20 years' in service in the political and security field of Asean cooperation, is now with the Asean Studies Centre, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
Currently, Asean is chaired by Cambodia, followed by Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar in 2014 before Malaysia assumes the helm in 2015.
Asean has a combined population of 600 million people, making it the third most populous region in the world after India.
It has a combined gross domestic product of US$2.176 trillion (RM6.6 trillion), which is the ninth highest in the world.
Despite this, Asean's main weakness is putting its foot in issues like the Southern Thailand conflict and the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.
"These issues are not related to Asean as the countries involved have made it clear that these their internal problems.
"However, with the United Nations taking interest in it, the least Asean can do is to work with the UN in dealing with these sensitive issues."
Another issue that still plagues Asean is the South China Sea dispute.
"As we can see in the Mindanao treaty, it took nine years to reach an agreement.
"But with claims over South China Sea where it involves multilateral parties, it needs more time and a strong leadership."
The Asean lecture series is organised by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem said the talk aimed to educate Malaysians on the role of Asean in the region.