Asean forum mulls border crimes hub

Asean forum mulls border crimes hub

The Asean Regional Forum (ARF) has agreed in principle to set up a regional anti-transnational crime centre, but says a survey is needed to avoid work overlapping with existing Asean centres.

Asean has to respond to cross-border challenges such as drug crimes, said Suriya Jindawong, deputy director-general of the Foreign Ministry's Department of Asean Affairs.

A survey would be carried out to ensure the effective performance of an anti-transnational crime centre.

"We will first conduct a survey to prevent overlapping with centres which deal with specific regional threats," Mr Suriya said, referring to the Asean Narcotics Cooperation Centre (Asean-Narco) based at the Office of the Narcotics Control Board set up in Thailand in 2015 and the Asean Centre of Military Medicine launched last year in response to humanitarian consequences of natural disasters.

The survey's other objectives are to point out key roles for the new centre and find gaps in information-sharing, he said.

Mr Suriya spoke to the media after a two-day workshop on Concept Development of the ARF Transnational Threats Information-sharing Centre in Bangkok that wrapped up yesterday.

Initially, the two-day meeting discussed the possibility of how much information, particularly "sensitive" issues related to drug smuggling, human trafficking and cyber crimes, can be shared among North and South Korea, Russia, the United States and China -- ARF member countries that often compete with one another politically.

"While Asean connectivity is set to become more inclusive to achieve the Single Window, countries in Asean and the Asia-Pacific have to work harder to deal with various forms of transnational crimes which lie ahead," the deputy director-general said.

The single window system allows cross-border traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location instead of multiple borders.

A regional initiative would expedite cargo clearance by enabling the electronic exchange of border documents among Asean member states.

Still, an exact location for the regional anti-transnational crime centre has yet to be confirmed, Mr Suriya said.

"The whole process [for setting up the centre] will take time," he said.

According to Mr Suriya, the idea of opening the centre is likely to be discussed again during the Asean Summit in the Philippines, the Asean chair, later this year.

The plan to establish a centre to address transnational crimes is being pushed by Thailand, the United States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and aims to improve the sharing of information between the 26 member countries of the ARF and the European Union.

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