Future Security Issues In Southeast Asia Politics

Essay add: 16-06-2017, 19:33   /   Views: 20

Southeast Asia requires a comprehensive security framework to apprehend this issue by identifying the current threats in the region. First of all, their primary concern over security in Southeast Asia is obviously an increase in Islamic militant rebellion group and terrorism, which brings threat to the stability of each nation. It is noticed that the linkage among these extremist groups was well established and mainly focusing on its issues such as promoting the adoption of Islamic law and seeking attention from the government (Mahan, 2008:88). In Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), discovered to make contact with the Al-Qaeda after the incident of 11 Sept 2001 and believed to have established their cells in this region such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand. In Oct 2002, they have launched a bomb attack in Bali killed 202 people and followed by bombing the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, killed 12 people a year later (T.H Tan, 2006:175). Their act of violence keeps on growing where they had launched another bomb attacks in Bali and killed 26 people in Oct 2005. In Nov 2005, Attempting of suicide bombers consists of six-members were arrested and one of its members was shot to death. With their influence in the region, they believed to make an alliance with other extremist groups to share their resources for training, arms procurement and financial aid (T.H Tan, 2006:176). It is also reported that the Filipino insurgency group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) made contact with JI and Al-Qaeda in joint operations and training for supporting their effort to gain right from their government (T.H Tan, 2006:164). This terrorist organization remains active and believed to establish contact with any other terrorist organizations in the world. Because of this, the United Nations Security Council had listed them as foreign terrorist groups; any funding excess and travelling through their territories were prohibited.

Secondly, bilateral tensions in the Southeast Asia have affected the relations within the region especially the ASEAN states. This is simply because of the presence of territorial disputes, historical and religious conflicts among the states. For example, relations between Brunei and Malaysia have been a diplomatic problem since 1962 when negotiations for Brunei to join the Malaysia Federation broke down over the question of oil revenues (T.H Tan, 2006:27). In addition, there has also been ongoing dispute over Limbang and the overlap of Brunei's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) as Malaysia also claims their right on the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea (Pike, 2009:1). Other bilateral tensions would be the relations between Thailand and its neighbours. There has been a border disputes between them and Myanmar, followed by fisheries disputes in1995 (T.H Tan, 2006:31). Myanmar had been accusing Thailand for enhancing drugs trafficking into their country. As the tension increases, they had to deploy troops to secure their borders for their security purposes. Neighbours with Vietnam, they also had maritime disputes. Both countries had been claiming the East Sea area along the junction of the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea potentially rich in fisheries areas (T.H Tan, 2006:33). However in 1997, they made an agreement to prevent any conflicts and conduct joint patrols in the area in 1998 instead.

Another concern over security in Southeast Asia would be an arms race among the nations in terms of rapid defence spending and military modernization. Military modernization in the Southeast Asia seems to be picking up in the 1990s (Gill, 2010:200). However, the momentum started to slow down due to the financial crisis, which gives an impact in the region since 1997. Example can be taken when the Singapore acquired F16 combat aircraft, then Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia later interested in acquiring an advanced strike fighter for the purpose of countering any hostile action (T.H Tan, 2006:7). It has been reported that there has been a rise in the regional defence expenditure for Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia from 2005-2009 (Gill, 2010:221). This proven that some countries seem to be involved in competitive arms acquisitions and desire not to be left behind by one's neighbours. If this situation continues, it could bring fear to their nation in term of security as the tension among them increases which may lead to conflict.

The emergence of China is an important factor affecting the security of all states in the region due to a rise in their economic and rapid military modernization. In the future, China is likely to surpass Japan and United States in the economic development. With their economic resources and development, China could improve their military force and nuclear capabilities (Wanandi, 2010:287). This could bring fear to some states in the Southeast Asia who had an issue and conflict with them. Example can be taken over claiming of territories in disputed areas such as Spratley Islands in the South China Sea. China is indirect conflict with four ASEAN member states, which are Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Philippines over potential oil-rich Island (Pike, 2009:1). To prevent any conflicts, a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea was signed by ASEAN member states and China in 2002 with the purpose of resolving this issue (Wanandi, 2010:287). And later in 2005, the Philippines also signed an agreement to jointly develop their disputed zone.

The fifth factor affecting the security in Southeast Asia would be an increasing of transnational criminal activities. Transnational crime in Southeast Asia had been increases and a threat towards the regional security. These Issues were raised particularly in piracy, drug trafficking and human smuggling and trafficking. Rise in piracy in Southeast Asia may affect the regional economic security and give economic difficulties for the weaken state to survive (Weatherbee, 2005:173). An increase in drugs and human trafficking has brought the attention in Southeast Asia especially in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. This had brings bad reputation towards the region, effecting the region's economics and causing criminal rate to increase from time to time (Weatherbee, 2005:173).

Existing Security Framework

In 1967, five countries consisting Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand signed Bangkok Declaration with the aim of promoting peaceful community and stability in the Southeast Asia, economics growth and maintain close security cooperation within the region (Hagiwara, 1992:35). Five years later, Declaration on the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) was signed which strengthening peace and stability among of the nation, prohibited use of nuclear weapon in the region, and enhance regional security cooperation. Any major countries like China, Japan, the Soviet Union and the United States (US) were not allowed to get involve within the region for the purpose of equality and remain neutral for the states (Luhulina, 2005:275-276). In 1976, Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) was formed to emphasize the issues stated in the previous declaration and act accordingly (Luhulima, 2005:278). This agreement was designed and applies only to states within the Southeast Asian region; however it was amended in 1987 to allow for states outside the region such as Papua New Guinea, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, East Timor and France to join this declaration (ASEAN:2009). In 1994, Presence of ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) consists a group of twenty-seven states including 10 ASEAN countries, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste and United States will enhance better regional security in the Southeast Asia (ASEAN:2009). Their objective is to promote dialogue on issues of regional peace and security especially on the issue on resolving problems on territorial disputes, free from nuclear-weapon state, and to counter terrorism and transnational crime in the region (C.Severino, 2009:21-23).

In 1995, ASEAN countries signed the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ). As a key component of ZOPFAN, this treaty is to express ASEAN's determination to apprehend any nuclear mass destruction, promoting further peace and security internationally (Luhulina, 2005:280). In 1997, this treaty was enforced to the states concern whilst negotiating with the five nuclear-weapon states to convince them as a part of free nuclear state (Luhulina, 2005:280). Declaration on Bali Concorde ll in 2003 particularly in ASEAN Security community will be implemented based on the issues was raised on the previous declaration in terms of security (ASEAN:2009). Any institutions within ASEAN will be used to strengthen regional capacities to counter terrorist and other transnational crimes by ensuring every state free from any weapon of mass destruction (ASEAN:2009). In 2006, ASEAN Defence Minister's Meeting was held with the purpose of exchanging views on the current regional and international security situation, giving guidance to existing security and military defence force within the region. With this, every state will gain trust to view the current security challenges as well as to enhance the establishment of an ASEAN Security Community (ASC) as stated in the Bali Concord II and to promote the implementation of the Vientiane Action Programme on ASC (ASEAN:2009).

Future Security Framework

In order to provide better regional security within Southeast Asia, they should enhance and emphasized the importance on security cooperation with the influential countries. Considering them, China, leading East Asia focussed on Defence and Security cooperation will enhance the regional security and cooperation. Historically, China as potential superpower country had been a good relationships with regional members and they had been a member of ARF, ASEAN+3 and Treaty of Amity and Cooperation on which they mainly focusing on non-traditional security threats (ASEAN:2009). This had lead ASEAN to a mutual understanding, focusing on peaceful resolutions over territorial disputes, cooperation against security and non-traditional security issues (Wanandi, 2010:286). One of the measures taken in ASEAN was China's military transparency in building trust and confidence among themselves. Hopefully, with these opportunities, Southeast Asia would have the advantages to build good relationship, create better defence cooperation to apprehend any threats and speeding up the region's capabilities in terms military modernization, manufacturing field and labour-intensive field .

With the support and involvement of United States (US), it can build confidence among of the states in the Southeast Asia by considering the US to led Asia-Pacific Defence and security cooperation (Fields:2010). Southeast Asia alone itself can't apprehend any security threats. Based on the historical background, US have been a close diplomatic relations with every state in the region. At presence, US are considered as the superpower country and the strongest military force in the world. However, they do really have their own limitation in its ability on itself to handle in many issues and challenges. That is why US proposed to carry out any multilateral approach and strategy with other states. This is to promote mutual understanding, build comprehensive defence cooperation and sharing information for future development in terms of joint operation and training (Stackpole, 2002:77-79). In ASEAN, they had conducted multilateral exercise with Singapore and Thailand known as Cope Tiger 2010. This exercise is to enhance combined readiness and interoperability, reinforces the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, and demonstrates U.S. capability to project combined and joint forces strategically in a multilateral environment (Cope Tiger:2010). In Southeast Asia, it would give an opportunity to the states to enhance their security framework through joint operation and training, create mutual understanding with powerful military power and deter any form of threats.

To enhance security among of the nation, Multilateral Defence cooperation between extra regional powers and individual member states. Extra regional powers will involve the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) into the region (Fields:2010). This organization was initiated in 1971, which consists of UK, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. The introduction of FPDA to Southeast Asia will assist them in building up better defence cooperation through multilateral operations and training (Methven, 1992: 191). Other than that, it will also promote a confidence-building regime in Southeast Asia in terms of security and cooperation (Methven, 1992: 191). It would bring benefits for the states as they may gain better security and experience for future requirement. This has been proven in 1991, FPDA's twentieth anniversary celebrations, they held major exercise with 2 of the ASEAN Countries; Malaysia and Singapore, through naval and air defence exercises. With this exercise, they manage to expand the air defence coverage in the region and provide better maritime security to apprehend any threats (Methven, 1992: 192). Recently, FPDA had conducted another major exercise known as Exercise Bersama Shield 2010 to enhance interoperability in the combined air and maritime exercise involve seven warships, 60 aircrafts and 2500 personnel. With this opportunity, they had developed relationships with important regional partners, conducted a range of tactical mission's different weather conditions and enhance defence networking among themselves (Exercise Shield Bersama:2010). Integration with them will enhance a comprehensive security over Southeast Asia and deter any potential threats such as terrorism in the region.

To enhance regional security in the Southeast Asia, they should be considering and focusing on multilateral efforts for security cooperation between every state and their dialogue partners. Nowadays, terrorist's organizations especially JI are still active and operates violently in the region. There is a need for every state to maximise their resources and assets through integration and joint operations in terms of sharing intelligence, counterterrorist tactics and training (Sawyer:2010). This will boosting up the confidence and awareness among them in order to remedies this situation. Not only that, this would reduce the tension among of the states and led to an ease on focusing a comprehensive cooperation at any levels such as bilateral, regional and international to enhance security in a framework form. Other than that, this is to encourage them to exchange updated intelligence information, joint law enforcement, curbing transnational activities in joint operation, and formation of international anti-terrorism unit (Fields:2010). On the good side, it will give a bigger picture for the Southeast Asia to consider this idea as what the ASEAN had done in ARF, ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), ASEAN POL and ASEAN Security Community (ASC) (ASEAN:2009).


In conclusion, Southeast Asia requires a comprehensive security framework to apprehend any threats which may affect the security in the region. Among of the threats would be the spreading of terrorists group, bilateral tension between state, military arms race, rise of potential superpowers and an increase in transnational crime had affected the relations and the stability within the region especially the ASEAN states. In order to provide better regional security within Southeast Asia, they should enhance and emphasized on the importance on security cooperation with the influential countries. Considering China leading East Asia in Defence and Security cooperation, involvement of United States (US) in defence cooperation, multilateral defence cooperation between extra regional powers and multilateral efforts for security cooperation with their dialogue partners will enhance the regional security and cooperation. With this proposal framework, it will enhance a comprehensive security over Southeast Asia and deter any potential threats within the region for future use.

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