Participants in the second ARF workshop on enhancing regional cooperation in maritime law enforcement pose for a photo (Photo: VNA)

Da Nang (VNA) – The second ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) workshop on enhancing regional cooperation in maritime law enforcement was held in the central city of Da Nang on March 12 and 13.

The event was jointly organised by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the European Commission. It attracted more than 70 officials, researchers and specialists from ARF members along with regional and international organisations.

A representative of the Vietnamese ministry said the organisation of the second workshop showed countries’ resolve to strengthen cooperation in maritime law enforcement, especially amidst continued complex challenges.

Highlighting the importance of cooperation in maritime law enforcement, the Australian department’s representative proposed countries consider setting up mechanisms for protecting maritime order and effectively coping with trans-national crimes.

Meanwhile, a representative of the European Commission affirmed the EU’s commitment to strengthening cooperation to ensure security in Asia, with maritime security one of the four priorities.

Participants noted maritime law enforcement cooperation is being carried out at different levels and via many channels, including Australia-Indonesia cooperation in preventing illegal fishing, the cooperation agreement between the coast guard forces of the Philippines and China, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s activities to combat crimes at sea, and the role of the Singapore-based regional coordination centre.

The workshop looked into the building of common guiding principles of conduct for maritime law enforcement forces, which was considered an urgent work amid the rapid increase of coast guard forces in the region. They said common principles and standards of conduct will help improve the forces’ professionalism, facilitate coordination, and help with the management and prevention of possible incidents or encounters.

In terms of the fisheries sector, participants applauded efforts by regional countries in fighting relevant crimes, including human and drug trafficking, corruption and tax evasion. They discussed some initiatives to promote law enforcement collaboration in the sector. They also underlined the need to protect fishermen’s legitimate interests while ensuring security, safety and humane treatment of fishermen.

The workshop’s outcomes will be reported to the 11th ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Maritime Security on March 14 and 15 in Da Nang.

This workshop was part of activities to implement the ARF Ministerial Statement on Enhancing Cooperation among Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies. The EU is scheduled to host the third event in early 2020.

Founded in 1994, the ARF aims to promote countries’ dialogue and cooperation in political-security issues, thus contributing to peace, stability and trust building in the region. It comprises 27 members, including the 10 ASEAN member states and 10 ASEAN dialogue partners.

Among the ARF’s working groups, Vietnam, Australia and the EU are co-chairing the one on maritime security for the 2018-2020 period.-VNA