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What Happened to ASEAN? Will It Become a Lapdog of China?

Map and flags of ASEAN member states. Image: asean-law.senate.go.th

here will be absolutely no mention of the Arbitral Tribunal’s unanimous decision against China and in favor of the Philippines during the current ASEAN summit in Laos. Following the footsteps of Cambodia which in July of this year also blocked any mention of the UN arbitration court’s decision during an earlier meeting, Laos like Cambodia is simply shielding its prime benefactor, Communist China, from obvious embarrassment.

So how come these two countries, which were not part of the original five ASEAN founding members and were invited to join almost as an afterthought, can now decide what ASEAN can and cannot talk about at meetings? In 1967, five Southeast Asian countries namely: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, sent their foreign ministers to Bangkok to sign what is now known as the Bangkok Declaration, that formed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Joint communiqués were the norm after each ASEAN meeting up until Cambodia decided it had nothing to lose by going against the Philippines and preventing any mention of the South China Sea ruling in the association’s joint communiqué this past July. Now Laos is taking its cue from Cambodia and stating beforehand that there will be no mention of the UN Arbitral Tribunal’s decision during the upcoming meeting.

It is time that the Philippines—a founding member of ASEAN put its foot down and question why China, which is not even a member of ASEAN is sticking it’s nose in the association’s business and using its stooges, Laos and Cambodia, to block Philippine efforts against China. In the first place China is not even a democratic country; it is a totalitarian Communist regime. As people from Hong Kong are now belatedly realizing, there is no real freedom under Communist Chinese rule, only a semblance of it … a farce, in order to fool the outside world.

The UN court was unambiguous in its decision. It was not a 3 to 2 decision, or even a 4 to 1 decision. It was a 5 to 0 decision with all 5 judges deciding that there is no legal basis for China’s preposterous 9-dash line claim.

So if ASEAN can be cowed into silence this time, then the Philippines should bring it up again at the next meeting, and the next, and the next until ASEAN finally acknowledges the UN ruling.

And Communist Chinese leadership must realize that if they want China to be treated with respect, the country must stop acting like a thug or a bully, and adhere to international laws.

All this is just the opening salvo of what could be a long drawn-out battle for our rights as Filipinos. Will we be up to the task and see it through to the end? Or will we just shrug our shoulders and move on at some point in time, giving China what it legally does not deserve. Only time will tell. Published 9/6/2016

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