The Thai Government has given top priority to border security management in order to prepare for the emergence of the ASEAN Community at the end of 2015.
In his keynote address at the Regional Conference on "Enhancing Cooperation on Border Management in ASEAN: Preparing for a Safer and More Integrated Community,” Mr. Suvat Chirapant, Deputy Permanent Secretary acting as Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, said that Thailand is situated at the hub of Southeast Asia and shares land border with four ASEAN Member States with more than 90 checkpoints.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) co-hosted the Regional Conference, held on 24 August 2015 at the Sukhothai Bangkok Hotel.
In his address, Mr. Suvat pointed out that regional integration with the realization of an ASEAN Community, as well as the enhanced regional connectivity, may also bring about trans-boundary threats and transnational crime, including illicit drugs trafficking, trafficking in persons, and wildlife and timber trafficking.
He stressed that it is therefore important for ASEAN Member States to strengthen regional cooperation in order to strike a balance between cross-border facilitation and safeguarding national security through a more effective border security management. This is to prevent transnational criminal groups from exploiting such regional connectivity.
Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said that Southeast Asia is undergoing a process of rapid change with the ASEAN Community set to be established in 2015, bringing the region’s 630 million people together in one of the world’s largest trading blocks. ASEAN Member States are investing heavily in new road, rail and port infrastructure. This will bring about emerging transnational security threats.
It is estimated that the value of transnational crime already exceeds the gross domestic product of several ASEAN countries, with crime groups already generating illicit money flows exceeding $100 billion per year. Thus, it is essential for countries in the region to strengthen capacity of relevant personnel especially the frontline officers to be able to cope with these challenges in a more effective manner, he concluded.
Participating in the Regional Conference were high-level officials in charge of promoting regional connectivity and security and economic cooperation from ASEAN Member States. Governors and high-ranking officials from 26 border provinces in Thailand also attended the meeting.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Regional Conference aimed to provide a platform for discussion to promote border security and to mitigate the impact of enhanced regional integration, especially the development of infrastructure and physical connectivity. The recommendations from this Conference will serve as an input for further deliberation of relevant ASEAN organs.