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Byline: deepening economic co-operation, Asean has also expanded trade ties
SUNBATHERS may have momentarily diverted the attention of officials at the Asean Foreign Ministers' informal retreat in Phuket recently but sun, sea and sand could not hide their anxiety to show a united front on the issue of terrorism.
Although there was no official agenda, member countries had to be aware of each other's commitment in combating this pervasive scourge and yet not encroach into the other's bandwidth at the same time. If the body language at coffee breaks was anything to go by, it was one tough job reconciling different views without compromising on the grouping's cohesiveness and stability, says an observer.
Commitment to tackling terrorism is all the more urgent, given that region has been dubbed a militant hotbed, with reports of terrorist cells in some member countries allegedly having ties with Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.