On July 12th, 2016... We completed our discourse or what they called high-level seminar on functional cooperation in the South China Sea (SCS)...Every morning for three days I would look outside the window of my room 801 as I woke up to do my solat Fajr at about 4:24am or 5:24 am Malaysian time. I would see and watch the Mekong river flowing gently and constantly. There would be small sampans on it... At low tide or during the dry season you could see the river bed with its sands looking nonthreatening..You feel you could walk and cross to the Thai side. They are so close to each other in sharing the river as well as the history and linguistic similarities. Interesting history of political expediency and intrigues at the colonial times and during the Cold War period.
This land locked country or people now like to refer it as land linked country, Laos knows how to balance well and benefited from its position. She becomes important to China, Thailand and Vietnam. Coincidentally, the Seminar was on the same day when the decision of the case brought up by the Philippines on the legal position of the SCS would be pronounced by the PAC at the Hague. The Chairman of the APRC made a special mention that this was not intentional. Whatever it was, the Seminar that gathered former policy makers, experts and scholars throughout the globe was intended to find common grounds where the claimants and non-claimant states could collaborate with each other to use the SCS for their mutual benefits..
The seminar was productive and constructive in the deliberation on functional cooperation for littoral and non littoral states on one of the most important sea lanes of the world for trade and economic developments. It is also an area endowed with rich mineral and natural resources which China insists has been theirs from ancient times or historically Chinese. Unfortunately for her UNCLOS general do not recognise historical rights. It has also become a contentious areas where the security and well-being could be threatened. The irony is all our borders, especially land and maritime are all determined by our colonial masters. The outcome of the seminar was to move forward for functional cooperation and not contention of rights on the SCS.
Ambiance and contents of discussions were excellent and timely. But as expected when the decision in favor of the Philippines was delivered it somehow or rather changed the environment. My hope was now we know how to handle and manage not the sovereignty, the EEZ or territorial disputes between claimants but how we can address the political, economics, security and social issues. We must handle the sensitivities and undertake the face saving exercise to recognise China's position as a big regional and international power. China doesn't accept or recognise the jurisdiction or the outcome. There is a problem that must be managed for a beneficial solution. Respect and honour the Mekong & SCS. Its just a thought.
FBSHApost@14 July 2016