By Cundoko Aprilianto


JAKARTA, May 6 (Xinhua) -- The Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) wants to have a bigger global role. But could the bloc materialize its goal amid ongoing internal rift among its own members?

ASEAN is facing a huge task to settle border issue between Cambodia and Thailand. Besides, Indonesia and Malaysia are in prolonged dispute over sea boundary.

The world needs to see that the ASEAN could resolve its own problem before allowing it to have a bigger voice in global issues.

ASEAN has made several achievements such as forming the ASEAN Humanitarian Center (AHA), rolling the ASEAN Maritime Forum and consolidating the ASEAN Inter-governmental Human Right Commission that was formed two years ago, among others.




And, for Indonesia, as the country is holding the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2011, it would be very advantageous for the country if conflict between Thailand and Cambodia could be resolved this year.

Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Michael Tene told Xinhua that the border issue is one that member countries must manage better.

"It does not mean that such issue is an excuse for us to be enemy. We just haven't yet to manage the issue well. We have to know that it needs years to put us in peaceful condition, and to attain the goal, negotiations and diplomacy must be put forward," said Tene.

On May 4, Cambodia replied to Indonesia, current ASEAN chair, about the acceptance of the 7th terms of reference (TOR) for the deployment of Indonesian observers to the border with Thailand.

If TOR for observers will be signed on the sideline of 18th ASEAN Summit here,it will be a success for the regional bloc to settle disputes among its members, observers said. ASEAN Charter provides for the establishment of dispute settlement mechanisms.

However, Cambodian academics voiced their skepticism over ASEAN 's capability to solve the problem of Thailand and Cambodia. In fact, they warned that the conflict can lead to a rift in this bloc.

"It's beyond ASEAN's ability to solve it out despite that the ASEAN is putting its strong efforts to mediate it," said Ros Chantrabuth, advisor to the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

In fact, Chantrabuth said that only the United Nations could solve the problem. "I believe that only the United Nations Security Council can help to tackle the Cambodian and Thai border conflict," he added.

He also warned that the Cambodian and Thai row could lead to the rift in the ASEAN, and the security stability in the Southeast Asian countries could be in jeopardy if the fighting still continues for a longer time without any intervention from the third party.

Meanwhile, Indonesia faces waters boundary with Malaysia for years and there is no sign that the two countries could solve the problem in near term.

Reports on the arrest of Malaysian fishing boats by the Indonesian authority and vice versa, emerged several times this year and 2010.

However, Indonesia is optimistic that ASEAN could voice more, at least in East Asian region. According to Indonesian Vice President Boediono, the country is firmly committed to ensuring ASEAN in a position to play the kind of regional role it aspired to.

"First, by enhancing its capacity and credibility to act together, and second by skillfully managing its relations with major neighboring powers," he said.

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