Thailand can play role of tough broker in S. China Sea row

Thailand can play role of tough broker in S. China Sea row

Tensions in the South China Sea over conflicting territorial claims between the member states of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China have become the thorniest obstacle for regional peace and prosperity in South-east Asia.

But now, as a result of a confluence of changes in regional conditions and Thai domestic politics, a promising way forward has emerged.

As country coordinator for ASEAN-China relations from 2012 to 2015, Thailand has an opportunity to play an important brokering role. This is particularly so when it comes to implementing the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

The DOC explicitly committed the signatories ''to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned''.

Since then, however, China has been reluctant to upgrade the DOC into a legally binding code of conduct (COC), preferring instead to negotiate individually with each country. The short window of coordination available to Bangkok means that if a concrete COC is not in place by 2015, prospects for a peaceful resolution may sour.

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