Bangkok: The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Saturday gathered in Bangkok for a summit to discuss economic matters affecting the region amid the ongoing trade tensions between the US and China, as well as to broach an array of policies promoting a path toward greater sustainability. The Prime Ministers and Presidents of the 10-nation bloc – which was founded in 1967 and is currently made up of Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were set to inaugurate later in the day the 34th bi-annual summit’s plenary session, which is scheduled to end on Sunday. Also Read – Maruti cuts production for 8th straight month in Sep The Prime Minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-ocha – whose country currently chairs the bloc, 10 years after its last chairmanship – had warned on the eve of the gathering of ASEAN leaders that the US-China trade war was creating uncertainty in the global economy, reported Efe news. “We have to alleviate this tension and create a greater balance,” said the head of the Thai government, who took power following a military coup in 2014 and was recently ratified as PM after a controversial general election in March. Also Read – Ensure strict implementation on ban of import of e-cigarettes: revenue to Customs Under the theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”, the bloc seeks to boost environmental measures as several countries in the region such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are moving toward banning imports of non-recyclable waste. “At a time our region is facing challenges and uncertainty, sustainability is a solution with the aim of creating the best conditions for regional stability and sustained economic growth,” said Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai during the opening speech of the ministerial meeting. The bloc’s Foreign Affairs and Finance Ministers were also set to meet on Saturday in an attempt to reach a consensus on advancing toward the so-called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with ASEAN’s external partners. The RCEP is a proposed multilateral free trade deal that would make it the world’s largest economic bloc due to the inclusion of Asian giants China, Japan, India and South Korea – the continent’s four leading economies, in that order – as well as Australia and New Zealand. It would cover a territory with a combined population of 3.4 billion people – around 40 per cent of the world’s inhabitants – and represent a similar proportion of the global economy. The agreement’s details are expected to be hammered out before the end of 2019. “In this summit, we aim to conclude it as a single stance of ASEAN that we want to complete the negotiation of RCEP by the end of this year,” Auramon Supthaweethum, Director-General of the Thai Department of Trade Negotiations, had said on the summit’s eve. The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, had said before departing Manila that he would include in the agenda the territorial disputes between China and his country over sovereignty in the South China Sea, an issue that also affects other ASEAN members like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Duterte has in the past repeatedly said that even though the countries are friends, the Asian giant shouldn’t claim “an entire ocean” for itself and has warned of the dangers this stance could imply. “I love China, but it behooves us to ask: is it right for a country to claim the whole ocean?” he rhetorically asked during a speech in Tokyo at the end of May. In early June, a collision between a fishing boat from the Philippines and a Chinese vessel sparked outrage among Filipino nationalist groups, despite the close ties between Manila and Beijing, who have both downplayed the incident’s importance. Around 30 per cent of the world’s maritime trade passes through the South China Sea, home to thousands of islets and atolls scattered over an area that contains important fisheries and potential oil and gas deposits.
“This release is a sign that the process of implementing the commitment made by the leaders of these groups, as a part of the peace and reconciliation process, is on track,” UNICEF Representative in the Central African Republic (CAR) Mohamed Malick Fall said in a press release.“We fully expect to see hundreds more children released before the end of this year,” Mr. Fall said. The 163 children, five of the girls, were released today in a ceremony in the town of Batangafo where the handover was facilitated by UNICEF and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).The children received medical care and spoke to social workers before they were taken to a transition centre where they will be supported in either going back to school or enrolling in vocational training. UNICEF and partners will also trace and reunify the children with their families. “MINUSCA is resolved with all partners to ensure the protection of children and I herewith reaffirm its determination to multiply efforts to identify and separate children who are waiting to return to normal life,” said Diane Corner, the deputy special representative of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR.According to UNICEF, between 6,000 and 10,000 children have been associated with armed factions in the Central African Republic since 2013 including those serving as combatants, as well as those working as cooks, messengers and in other roles. Smaller release ceremonies also took place in the capital Bangui last week, and earlier in August in other districts, bringing to 645 the number of children liberated since a May agreement by the country’s 10 armed groups to release all children from their ranks.The agreement also commits the groups to ending additional recruitment of children and gives UNICEF and its partners immediate and unrestricted access to the areas under the groups’ control in order to identify and verify the number of affected children and to secure their release. read more