Transnational crime in Southeast Asia is a serious issue that should be tackled. For the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the issue of transnational crime comprises drug trafficking, human trafficking, tax evasion, transnational prostitution, piracy, arms smuggling, credit card deception, and corruption. Drug trafficking may be the gravest transnational criminal issue confronted by the regional states.

ASEAN has securitized transnational crime since 1997 and has recognized the nature of the danger and enunciated the issue in security terms. The organization has also shown the earnestness and prompted political consideration at the most elevated discreet level. The ASEAN Member States have defined a specific position and reported their eagerness to build collaboration against this multifaceted issue.

Embraced on 20 December 1997, the ASEAN Declaration on Transnational Crime widened and heightened regional collaboration against organized crime. It emerged from the first ASEAN meeting regarding the matter organized in Manila. The 1997 affirmation fortified the responsibility of the Member States to fight against the crime. It reported that the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) would meet once every two years.

The Fourteenth AMMTC was held virtually on 26 November 2020. The meeting was chaired by General To Lam AMMTC Leader of Viet Nam, Minister of Public Security of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The meeting’s theme was “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN against Transnational Crime,” which reflected determinacy and assurance of the Ministers in the battle against transnational crime amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The fourteenth AMMTC theme also mirrored the Ministry of Public Security of Viet Nam’s passionate commitment to the Viet Nam’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme of “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN against Transnational Crime.” The meeting featured the critical advancement accomplished by the ASEAN Member States in fighting transnational crime to be specific “(i) the initiation of the ASEAN Plus Republic of Korea Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC + ROK) Consultation, (ii) the acceptance of the Work Plan of the ASEAN Plan of Action to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism (PCRVE) Work Plan (Bali Work Plan) 2019-2025, (iii) and the promotion of the alliance of the SOMTC and AMMTC chairmanship with the ASEAN chairmanship early 2021”.

The ASEAN Member States further empathized toward the loss of lives and property brought about by cataclysmic disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic in the ASEAN Member States over the previous year. They asserted their obligation in reinforcing their solidity in fighting transnational crime with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, which had pessimistically affected each part of their society and expanded dangers for susceptible communities, particularly women and children.

The endeavours made by the ASEAN Member States, including reinforcing cross-sectoral and cross-pillar participation in executing regional activities to battle transnational crime, exhibited the adaptivity and ingenuity of law implementation agencies to the “new normal” in actualizing the ASEAN Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime (2016-2025). It was likewise a demonstration of the tough cohesion, harmony, and strength of the ASEAN Member States in sustaining peace, security, and steadiness regionally and globally.

They praised the endeavours attempted by Vietnam to draft the Concept Paper on the Establishment of a Direct Communication Link (DCL) in the AMMTC to empower the ideal exchange of transnational crime data and cases and build up operational techniques to deal with pertinent occurrence in emergency circumstances.

They further appreciated the “SOMTC-Malaysia for its endeavors and crucial role in terms of turn development and progress of the Terms of Reference of SOMTC and the Terms of Reference on SOMTC Working Group on General Transnational Crime Matters (WG on GTCM).”

The member states bear in mind the implementation of the “Work Plan of the ASEAN PoA to Prevent and Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism 2019-2025 (Bali Work Plan) at the Thirteenth AMMTC and anticipated its execution, including through summoning of ASEAN Regional Workshop on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE) and the second ASEAN Partners Meeting for the Implementation of the Bali Work Plan 2019 – 2025 in 2021.”

Thus, the Ministerial meeting assumes a significant role in securitizing transnational crime in ASEAN, and this time the meeting was held in the conventional ASEAN spirit of cohesion and conviviality.

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