ASEAN’s Role In Conflict Resolution in Southeast Asia: A Perspective

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator css=”.vc_custom_1592076377183{padding-top: 15px !important;}”][vc_column_text]Earlier this week, the Conflict and Resilience Research Institute Canada (CRRIC) hosted a webinar to discuss ASEAN’s role in conflict resolution in Southeast Asia. The panel of distinguished guests featured Dr. Shaun Narine, a professor of political science at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick, and former ambassador Md Shahidul Haque, a professorial fellow at the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance at North South University in Bangladesh, and the former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh. The webinar was moderated by CRRIC’s executive director, Dr. Kawser Ahmed. The Honourable High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Canada, Dr. Khalilur Rahman appeared as a special guest. 


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization that represents ten nation-states in Southeast Asia. Narine, who opened the discussion, highlighted the principle of non-intervention upheld by ASEAN, attributing it to the organization’s continued resilience. 


“What has enabled it to endure 54 years has been its knowledge that it can make very few demands of its members,” Narine said. “If ASEAN did try to punish and pressure their member states into compliance with a regionally defined set of expectations, the organization would almost certainly fall apart overnight.” 


Haque, however, provided a different perspective on ASEAN. In his presentation on the Rohingya crisis through ASEAN’s lens, he argued that the international organization has not been doing nearly enough to aid the Rohingyas and combat the atrocities taking place in Myanmar. 


While he commended ASEAN for its core principles of respect for independence, sovereignty and adherence to rule of law, he argued that its so-called commitment to human rights protections was merely lip service in the case of the Rohingya crisis. 


“The sustained practice of so-called constructive engagement, compromise and consensus has actually paralyzed ASEAN to take against any human rights violation that is done by its member states,” Haque said. “In terms of the Rohingya crisis, ASEAN has terribly failed to take any steps to combat genocide in Myanmar.” 


In this way, the principle of non-intervention and constructive engagement that has allowed ASEAN to prosper has also created a culture of complicity, as seen in the organization’s inaction in the Rohingya crisis. 


Rahman closed the webinar with a few remarks on ASEAN’s role in helping displaced Rohingyas. While he said that ASEAN cannot be relied on, he agreed that the organization still possesses great influence in Southeast Asia—it is not a question of whether they can make a difference, rather, it is one of whether they want to make a difference in the first place.  


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