Friday, February 27, 2009

ASEAN agrees on using military assets for disaster relief

By Puy Kea
PATTAYA, Thailand , Feb. 26 KYODO
Defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed Thursday to use military assets and capacities in humanitarian and disaster relief as well as in non-traditional security threats.
Thai Defense Minister Gen. Prawit Wongsuwon, who chaired the meeting, said such use of military assets will not be commenced until a new task force is formed.
Gen. Prawit told reporters shortly after the meeting that the agreement on the matter was necessary so as to ensure security in the Asia-Pacific, especially in the ASEAN region. In the meeting, the defense ministers focused on the establishment of a special force to provide humanitarian assistance for member countries which are affected by natural disasters.
The participants also exchanged ideas on expanding security operations with countries outside ASEAN, but in the Asia-Pacific Rim region. Moving forward on the matter, the defense ministers signed three concept papers including the ASEAN Defense Establishments and Civil Society Organizations Cooperation on Non-Traditional Security to counter new security threats.
According to one of the concept papers seen by Kyodo News, military personnel deployed in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations will not carry weapons while performing official duties, unless otherwise agreed. The defense ministers cited experiences gained from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Cyclone Nargis that struck Myanmar last year and the recent earthquake in China as motivations for the use of military assets and capacities. The meeting, however, did not touch on the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia nor the issue of Myanmar migrants, according to officials.
According to a security source, the border and illegal migrant issues were excluded from agendas, since the defense ministers decided to resolve those problems via bilateral cooperation. The meeting was held ahead of the 14th ASEAN summit, to be held in the beach resort of Hua Hin from Friday to Sunday. ASEAN groups Brunei , Cambodia , Indonesia , Laos , Malaysia , Myanmar , Philippines , Singapore , Thailand and Vietnam .
KyodoFebruary 26, 2009

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