Is Non-Interference Policy of ASEAN Still Relevant?

Parliamentary Speech: Budget 2019

The Rohingya crisis is a full-blown humanitarian crisis with regional consequences. Voluntary repatriation is not seen as a viable solution by many given that the root cause of citizenship that results in the discrimination and abuse, as well as guaranteed safety, of the returnees, has yet to be resolved. This crisis is a sobering reminder that domestic issues can quickly become transnational ones overnight.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan’s Response: The principle of non-interference within ASEAN is actually a foundational principle, and you need to understand the reason why we have to operate this way. This is because we are so vastly different. You know, even the EU has its own challenges with differences amongst themselves. But if you look at ASEAN, the 10 of us, size, economy, government systems, as I said before, ranging from monarchies, military arrangements, variety of democracies, it would fracture ASEAN if we were to abandon that principle. So I much rather our current practical approach, which is by moral suasion, by quiet diplomacy, discussion behind the scenes, and to tell our fellow members that yes, you have a problem within your borders but it has an impact on us. And for what it is worth, these are our views, this is how we will offer to help. And sometimes if it is particularly egregious, we will have to say things publicly. And that is how it has operated all this while. I completely sympathise with your and Louis’ concern for the refugees, but as Louis also noted during his intervention, this problem has been around a long time. It has pre-dated ASEAN. And we cannot force a quick resolution. So that is why, it is a long answer to your question, but we cannot end the principle of non-interference.”


Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities.

She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion, environment — and volunteerism in Parliament.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.