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ASEAN: Regional Forum Adopts Counterterrorism Work Plan; Rules for Emergency Group Also Approved

(Aug. 6, 2009) On July 23, 2009, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, or ARF, adopted the ARF Work Plan for Counterterrorism and Transnational Crime. The ARF comprises the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Brunei Darusssalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – plus Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the European Union, India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, and the United States. (H.E. Kasit Piromya, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, Chairman, 16th ASEAN Regional Forum, Phuket, Thailand, Statement, 42nd AMM/PMC/16thARF (July 23, 2009), available at; ARF to Adopt 'More Focused' Counterterrorism Strategy, AP, July 22, 2009, available at; About Us, ASEAN Regional Forum website, (last visited Aug. 5, 2009).)

The Work Plan reportedly calls for a “'more focused and coordinated strategy' in dealing with terrorism, maritime security, illegal drugs, cyber terrorism and the like, stressing the need for 'concrete and practical cooperation'” among the ARF ember countries, a long-term strategy aimed at enhancing the existing program under the ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter Terrorism, which implements the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism. (AP, supra.) Part of the strategy is to concentrate ARF efforts on concrete capacity-building measures, technical support, and information exchange, to increase the Member States' ability to combat terrorism by such means as workshops, technical assistance, training courses, and multilateral exercises. (Id.)

According to the document, ARF “'does not need to 'do everything' in this vast field during the short-term, but rather 'do some things very well,'” with the current priority being cyber security and cyber-terrorism prevention, “to deter and prevent the misuse of the Internet by terrorists or terrorist groups, including recruitment, campaign and financial transfers.” (Id.) The Work Plan also stresses the importance of enactment and implementation by member states of national measures against bioterrorism. Other, future priority areas of capacity-building might include measures to combat chemical and nuclear terrorism and human trafficking. The document also states that the ARF should take aim at “the production and trafficking of illicit drugs and their precursors, enhance law enforcement capacity in affected countries, address border deficiencies, support the development of national legislations [sic] and increase coordination among law enforcement agencies in ARF countries.” (Id.)

The Inter-sessional Meeting on Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime is to coordinate the effective implementation of the Work Plan and make additional recommendations on strengthening the capacity of the Asia-Pacific region to counter terrorism and transnational crime. (Statement, supra.)

It was also reported, on July 27, 2009, that senior officials of the ARF had agreed on operating rules for the “Friends of the ARF Chair” (FOC), a group of three foreign ministers tasked with assisting the ARF Chairman in addressing regional and international problems, who are to respond quickly to emergencies, albeit it in an advisory, non-interventionist capacity. The FOC “will be composed of the foreign minister of the incoming ARF country chairman, the foreign minister of a non-ASEAN ARF member, and the foreign minister of the immediate past ARF chair country.” (Asian Security Forum to Adopt Rules for Quick-Reaction Group, AFP, July 27, 2009, available at
.) According to the operating rules, “[t]he ARF chair, in consultation with all ARF participants, will decide on the specific composition of the FOC, depending on the issue at hand,” taking under consideration “the need for a political balance among various interests and the paramount importance of regional stability and peace.” (Id.) Formal adoption of the rules was expected in the first week of August, but it may take two years for the mechanism to be put in place. Founded in 1994, the ARF reportedly “has been hobbled by the diversity of its members and its consensus-based decision making.” (Id.)