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Past Events

Public Lecture: “Peace Making Efforts Among ASEAN Nations” By: H.E. Emeritus Professor Dr. Surin Pitsuwan

Speaker: H.E. Emeritus Professor Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, Former Secretary General of ASEAN

Day/Date/Time: Monday, 14 April 2014, 10:00am

Venue: International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia


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About the Speaker

Dr. SURIN PITSUWAN is a veteran politician and academic who received his M.A. in ‘Political Science’ from Claremont College in California, and his Ph.D. in ‘Middle Eastern Studies’ from Harvard University. Upon his return from the United States he spent ten years teaching at the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasart University (Bangkok). Dr. Pitsuwan has been a Member of Parliament in the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) of Thailand 1986, and a Deputy Leader of the Democrat Party. He also worked as a columnist for the Nation Review and Bangkok Post.
Dr. Pitsuwan is well known for his five year tenure as the Secretary General of ASEAN from January 2008—2013. He was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand from 1997–2001; and served as Chair of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the ASEAN Regional Forum from 1999–2000. Upon leaving the Foreign Affairs portfolio in mid-2001, Dr. Pitsuwan was appointed a co-chair of the COMMISSION ON HUMAN SECURITY of the United Nations, and advisor to the International Commission on Intervention and States Sovereignty. He also served on the ILO’s World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. Dr. Pitsuwan has been a Trustee of THE ASIA FOUNDATION since 2003.


10:00am – 10:30am Registration of participants

10:30am – 10:35am Welcoming Remarks by the Moderator, Associate Professor Dr. Mohamed Azam bin Mohamed Adil, Deputy CEO, IAIS Malaysia

10:35am - 10:40am Opening Remarks by Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali, Founding Chairman and CEO, IAIS Malaysia

10:40am – 11:40am Presentation by H.E. Emeritus Professor Dr. Surin Pitsuwan

11:40am – 12:30pm Open discussion and Q&A session

12:30pm Concluding remarks by the moderator and adjourn the seminar



The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) began modestly as an initiative towards understanding and cooperation but subsequently evolved towards an integrated community defined by shared values and principles, according to Emeritus Professor Dr Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary-General of ASEAN at a public lecture on “Peace Making Efforts among ASEAN Nations” at IAIS Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur on 14 April 2014.

Pitsuwan, who is also currently Visiting Professor at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, United Kingdom, assured that ASEAN is committed to peace initiatives but it was originally conceived in the spirit of the 1960s when states were very different (contrast the EU) in many ways, so that the initial primary purpose was more on promoting understanding and cooperation among states rather than developing an integrated community. Thus states adopted a policy of non-interference in domestic affairs among member states, so that what goes on within the borders are not subjected to question or scrutiny by other member states.

However, subsequent developments posed considerable challenge to the earlier ethos. For one, the rise of India and China as neighbouring superpowers means that ASEAN must be able to stand up to remain competitive. Moreover, this policy has also enabled the persistence of many disagreeable practices, such as monarchic rule and two-party system. There is also growing recognition of the responsibility to protect, when governments fail to take care of their own people, the international community is bound to interfere, such as the contemporary plight of the Rohingyas. The global society will not tolerate another episode like in Kosovo (1998-1999), or the genocide in Rwanda (1994), when the Hutus massacred the minority Tutsis as the world stood by in silence.

Towards building greater integration, several initiatives have been undertaken. The recently-established ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is a step towards this direction, building upon preceding efforts. The latter include the Bali Concords, which represent agenda towards greater integration, especially with the adoption of the ASEAN Charter in 2007 which promised among others a fully integrated ASEAN community by 2015. In the 2011 Bali Concords, it was agreed that ASEAN should evolve into an effective instrument of regional cooperation vis-à-vis others.

Despite this tendency away from “non-interference” among member states and greater involvement with each other, Pitsuwan nevertheless acknowledged, that ASEAN may be vulnerable to a different type of “interference, i.e. as “battleground” for the major superpowers, particularly in the light of US President Barack Obama’s speech in Hawaii about the US “pivot to Asia”. Thus states, particularly the smaller and economically challenged ones, may function as a kind of proxy states for the major superpowers, voting at ASEAN meetings in accordance with these foreign interests in return for economic and financial assistance. This is made all the more difficult when ASEAN makes decision on the basis of consensus, i.e. in practical terms, every state has a veto right. It thus appeared that ASEAN is confronted with a challenge of maintaining its own sovereignty. It is a challenge has to be managed with prudence and wisdom, and which its next chair, Malaysia, must lead the way. [prepared by Tengku Ahmad Hazri]


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Contact Information

International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia
Jalan Elmu, Off Jalan Universiti 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +603-7956 9188  Fax: +603-7956 2188 / +603-7956 2966  Email: reply@iais.org.my

Quotable Quotes

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