UNODC and Government of Thailand announce strategic ASEAN border management partnership


Bangkok (Thailand), 25 February 2019
- To secure the ASEAN Community and address transnational organized crime, the Government of Thailand and UNODC have initiated a strategic partnership to advance border management under Thailand's ASEAN 2019 Chairmanship. The foundation for the border management agenda leading up to the coming ASEAN Summit will be a 'roadmap' that will be developed in coming months, consolidating steps the region can consider to improve border policies, investments, and operational capacities in support of regional political security and economic agendas.

The roadmap will be presented by Thailand and UNODC to ASEAN Member States at the Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime or SOMTC in Nay Pyi Taw Myanmar in early June, then at the Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime or AMMTC in Bangkok later in the year before the ASEAN Summit. Policymakers and border management agencies in the region will be able to use the roadmap as a basis for improving border management and cross-border cooperation.

Border management helps to bridge the priorities of the ASEAN Political-Security Community and the ASEAN Economic Community. In the past decade, ASEAN has seen its trade flows expand exponentially, in-part facilitated by investments in new infrastructure including at borders. The resulting expansion of licit cross-border movements of capital, labour, and goods has been impressive, but vulnerabilities to illicit trafficking and cross-border criminal activities have also been found across the region. When announcing the partnership to a recent briefing, the Director General of the ASEAN Department of the Thailand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Suriya Chindawongse, remarked, "Thailand has benefited greatly from the creation of the ASEAN Community and the business opportunities that have come with it, but we have also experienced an increase in transnational organized crime challenges at the same time. Border management needs to be part of the solution to transnational challenges the region is faced with."

It is a critical time for addressing cross-border crime challenges and ensuring that border control responses are aligned to ASEAN's framework for trade and economic development. Securing borders against transboundary crimes will require ASEAN Member States to adopt common strategies and mechanisms to address rapidly evolving nature of transnational organized crime. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, noted some announcement that "the region has focused heavily on the economic benefits of trade, and it has benefitted from doing so, but it has focussed less on transnational organized crime and related non-security challenges. As crime has evolved in the region and become increasingly characterised as transnational, the capacity to cooperate at and across borders has become much more important. The time is right for the region to take a fresh look at how borders are managed so the regional trade agenda can be secured."

ASEAN has previously acknowledged that a shared regional border management approach is needed, and that Member States must work together to respond to cross-border crime and security threats, but no follow up plan was enacted. Importantly, multilateral and cross border mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation already exist and are in use by parts of the region including border liaison offices.

In 2019, the Government of Thailand and UNODC will work together on communications and through practical projects, and will together champion border management at ASEAN sectoral body meetings including SOMTC and AMMTC, but also at the ASEAN Senior Officials on Drug Matters. In early April, Thailand and UNODC will co-host a high-level conference of ministers and senior officials from ASEAN Member States and Dialogue Partners, as well as select international partners and organizations, to discuss border management and related future steps to consider, including the roadmap.

Click here for information on the UNODC regional border management programme

Click here for information on past border management conferences

Click here for information on the Thailand ASEAN Chairmanship 2019 border management priority