Digital technology has positive impact on many aspects of our everyday lives, yet not without posing threats in elusive crime issues. Experts were agreed upon the transnational nature of crime and how preventative measures had to take into account to solve these cross-cutting and complex problems.
The recent concern points to the emergence of unregulated cryptocurrency, a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services, but uses an online ledger with strong cryptography to secure online transactions, which open loopholes for cybercrimes amid the lack of appropriate crime preventative measures, the civil protective mechanism in regulation and laws as well as proper operation to handle the perilous consequences. Hence, the multi-regional cooperation and
multi-dimensional approaches are needed to address these challenges more effectively, especially in Southeast Asia.
“Cross-sectoral collaboration and transnational cooperation are the utmost urgency and necessity in preventing and combating these new crimes, including human trafficking and sex crimes related to new technology. The problems are highly escorted in Thailand but widely be considered as transnational crime issues which originate from outsides and widespread across the globe via new emerging high - tech tools in digital era.” Dr. Phiset Sa-ardyen, Executive Director of Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) addressed the topic in an interview during the recent UN Crime Congress event.
The online conference titled Cross - sectoral collaboration for crime prevention: experience from the ASEAN Conference on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (ACCPCJ) hosted by Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) took part in the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – UN Crime Congress, the hybrid events held in Kyoto Japan from 7 - 12th March 2021, which brought criminal justice and human right experts from Thailand, ASEAN nations and Japan to discuss the successful work done across the region and how to increase cooperation and collaboration in the face of the increasingly complex and transnational nature of crime.
The ASEAN Conference on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (ACCPCJ) was previously held in November 2016 and in February 2020 by Ministry of Justice Thailand in cooperation with TIJ. The forum established under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Law Officials Meeting (ASLOM), Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), Senior Officials’ Meeting for the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (SOCA), along with criminal justice experts, policy makers, practitioners, and scholars to discuss the goal of enhancing cross-pillar, cross - sectoral coordination in crime prevention and criminal justice, civil society and the private sector.
Mr. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, Advisor of Thailand Institute of Justice, mentioned that the discussion revolved around the fruition of previous two ACCPCJ sessions and the ASEAN coordination in accordance to the Kyoto Declaration, announced on opening day of the UN Crime Congress, to Enhance the international cooperation in crime prevention and crime justice strengthening and urged all participants to invent their road map to improve the justice system and implement the vision in their own countries.
Clearly the international community has expressed its political will to strengthen regional cooperation as a global trend for the next five years, so it is within that context that we discuss the pertinent issues of regional cooperation.” Mr. Vongthep said during the session.
Mr. Sovannasam Un, Director of Legal Services and Agreement Directorate, ASEAN Secretariat, added to this focus on the importance of ASEAN Cross Secretarial collaboration.
“Strengthening the rule of law as well as preventing and combatting transnational crime has always been high in the integration and community building agenda of ASEAN. Under this principle, APSC has organized the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) and in cooperation with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASSC), three pillars of ASEAN community, adopt policies and legal frameworks to address and combat transnational crime.”
Mr. Sovannasam Un said.
According to Mr. Sovannasam Un, ASEAN Law Ministers are embarking on a legally binding declaration which will significantly contribute to combatting transnational crime.
Mdm Zuraini Sharbawi , Solicitor-General, Attorney General's Chambers Representative from Brunei ASLOM, presented that ASEAN community has found their resolution from the previous meeting, ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism, and ACCPCJ which has offered the sustainable pathway for international community and ASEAN community to combatting transnational crimes in accordance to ASEAN vision that “no one should be left behind.”
Professor Wisit Wisitsora-At, Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Justice and ASLOM Leader of Thailand, highlighted the challenges facing the regional approach taken by ASEAN to implement crime prevention and criminal justice was the lack of a proper platform.
“Criminal justice does not just belong to one agency in each country, we have courts, ministries of justice, corrections – so even in one country there is never a formal platform for handling specific issues”. Mr. Wisit said.
Mr. Wisit addressed another common problem that ASLOM suffers, was an agreement that might surpass a mandate, which then requires a new mandate. So, prisoners awaiting justice end up waiting five or more years before being transferred within ASEAN. The TIJ has proposed working with ASLOM by organizing a platform, the ACCPCJ, to invite formal platforms to join a collaborative effort which could address these cross-cutting issues.
Furthermore, there is the emerging challenge in ASEAN community, a lack of solid regulation and laws to battling high-tech criminal issues. The case in point is newly unregulated cryptocurrencies that increasingly popular among users in Southeast Asia.
Julien Garsany, Deputy Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the UNODC, specifically highlighted the issue saying “Many Southeast Asian nations are among the most intensive users of cryptocurrencies in the world, billions of dollars are moved across borders using cryptocurrencies and they need to be regulated because at the moment there is no regulation – banning them is not possible as they are online anyway.”
On the crime dynamics and challenges faced in the Southeast Asia region as well as a way forward to help address transnational organized crime and dismantle such organized groups.
The increasingly complex and transnational crimes as new technology stirred up amid COVID-19 pandemic, where people has been tied to cyber world during the social distancing period, needs more integrated policy coordination and actions from all the relevant stakeholders. There is a growing recognition that many elements of crime prevention and criminal justice are cross-cutting and that multi-dimensional approaches are needed to address these challenges more effectively.
Apart from ASEAN nations, Japan has an important role in JAPAN-ASEAN cooperation and has been working closely with UNODC in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice via MoU, financial support and training.
The cooperation projects include prison overcrowding reduction which lower a risk from COVID-19 in prison. Other areas of cooperation include the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI) and International Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Justice, providing criminal justice assistance, and collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
“We in Japan want to support the creation of these platforms on the practitioner level in the Asia-Pacific region to regularly meet and exchange information on cases and legal systems.” Mr. Yoshimitsu Yamauchi, Japan’s Assistant Vice-Minister of Justice, said in the meeting.
However, these tasks are challenging; language barrier, the various standard of the justice system in different countries, the lack of know-how and qualified officers, the shortage of innovation and proper equipment and tools to deal with transnational crimes effectively. Thus, all stakeholders should embrace these challenges and work hard on established platforms to create policies that ASEAN can adopt as a whole and ensure their implementation is consistent across all member states.
In conclusion, Dr. Phiset Sa-ardyen, Executive Director of TIJ, says that individual governments cannot act alone to solve complex problems in their own country without recognizing these issues as cross cutting and transnational.
“TIJ believes that justice is everyone’s matter. It is evident to us that collaboration between all stakeholders not only makes justice inclusive but also makes justice possible”